I'm looking at Imperial College and Oxford but really don't know which degree to go for - I've tried looking at the course structures but I'm not very familiar with all the topic names and am not sure what I'd like to focus on in the future.
In simple terms - if you want a bit of chemistry in your course and find it interesting; choose biochem. Both are suitable for grad med if thats what you might be wanting to do.
From what I've seen, Biochemistry courses tend to have more of a "bottom up" approach while BMS courses tend to have a "top down" perspective (at least as far as undergrad courses go). Although there are some topics you'll probably cover in one or the other but not both, you will see a lot of similar material in each, but from a different perspective as above. So while both might consider e.g. metabolism, in Biochem you'll probably be focusing on general questions of metabolism works on a cellular level in a fair amount of detail, in BMS you'll probably cover the general principles of cellular metabolism and then consider metabolic processes on a larger/more distributed scales, as well as diseases involving metabolism and where it stops working properly.
Thus a Biochem course will start from the basic atoms and molecules to build how the processes of cell development and differentiation, DNA/RNA transcription and translation etc "work", to create a model of how biological systems might work on larger scales, starting from the small stuff. This is supported by more or less amounts of chemistry content. Usually Biochem is more likely to consider more generalised "systems", so rather than specifically mammalian biology/genetics/whatever they'll consider more generally the processes that occur in animals commonly (including e.g. the favourites of zebrafish, nematode worms, and fruit flies) and then see if those results can be generalised to larger and more complex organisms (like humans). They might also consider biological processes that occur in all biological life forms, including plants, to understand again at the more fundamental level how "life" works.
BMS courses tend to start with larger systems (e.g. the cardiovascular system, renal system, so on) and consider how they function (their physiology) and stop functioning (pathology) as well as sometimes how they are structured (anatomy). To understand the physiology they will then develop some of those fundamental topics from Biochem proper, but usually in less detail for the general case and go into more detail for specific biomedically relevant examples. Thus they start with a biological system which we can generally understand how it functions, and works to fill in the details by going down, but where some things are particularly complex or less relevant to biomedical settings it might not be covered in as much detail or at all. Some animal models might be brought in where useful to illustrate a general concept (e.g. fruit flies for genetic inheritance) but they are more for illustrative purposes typically.
Because Biochemistry tends to be closer to research, Biochemistry courses tend to be more often offered as 4 year integrated masters courses, where you often spend the final year primarily if not wholly focusing on a major research project. While this is increasingly available for BMS courses as well, it's not as common. A Biochemistry degree would be very good background to go into virtually any area of biomedical research however (although a BMS course might not be adequate preparation for all Biochem PhD projects). This may or may not influence your decisions (NB as far as medicine as a career and subsequent applications to specialties go, I believe integrated UG masters courses usually count the same as a 3 year BSc or a 1 year iBSc for medicine students; masters courses, if awarded points, seem to often only garner them for standalone 1/2 year PG courses).
Last edited by artful_lounger; 5 months ago