Pathways in Cancer, Cardiovascular, Experimental Medicine, Genetic Mechanisms and Microbes & Infection
with a ¶Laboratory Project or a §Clinical Attachment
¶available for all applicants; § available only to medical graduates subject to availability
Overview of the Course
Molecular medicine is the application of Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics to the understanding of human health and disease. It aims to understand how health is maintained and the origins and mechanisms of human diseases. Its objective is to develop a novel understanding of good health, and through a better understanding of disease processes, find novel ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases.
The University of Sheffield one-year MSc in Molecular Medicine is taught in the Medical School of one of the top 100 universities in the world. The course is designed for both animal/human biology and clinical graduates. The primary aim of the course is to teach the latest developments in this rapidly advancing field and to bring you up to date with the technical and scientific advances in biomedical science and therapeutic design.
Several of the faculty who teach on the course have their own spinout biotechnology companies and we use speakers from the pharmaceutical industry to put our teaching into a commercial context. We also have strong contributions from our practicing clinical colleagues from all departments of the School of Medicine and further afield.
For the new academic year we are offering five pathways in Cancer, Cardiovascular Science, Experimental Medicine, Genetic Mechanisms and Microbes & Infection.
Why Study Molecular Medicine with us?
Molecular Biology has proved to be a rich source of new therapeutic agents in the last three decades. Recombinant proteins continue to be developed as successful drugs that principally target extracellular proteins such as cytokines and cell-surface receptors. Protein drugs are almost always injected. Bioinformatic data can now be used to identify new intracellular target proteins and investigate the networks of interactions that the target proteins participate in. It is becoming increasingly possible to model the surfaces of target proteins and use this information to model the interaction of low molecular weight, orally available drugs and even design drugs from scratch.
The completed Human Genome Project revolutionised the ways that we can consider human diseases. Single gene defects that cause rare genetic disorders took man-centuries to discover only twenty years ago. Now, because of next generation sequencing (NGS), single, novel gene defects can sometimes be identified in individual patients with only man-weeks of effort.
It will soon be economically plausible to sequence all of an individual's genes in the clinic. Common diseases, though, are not caused by single gene defects. Many clearly involve the interaction of many susceptibility genes with the environment.
An important part of the environment is the microbiome, the collective of microorganisms that inhabit an individual human. These organisms have strong interactions, many beneficial, with the immune system of the host and are fundamental to the understanding of common inflammatory diseases. It is now relatively simply to determine the composition of a microbiome, again by NGS.
Changes that do not alter DNA sequence, known as epigenetic changes, can modulate the activity of genes too. Genes can be regulated by micro-RNA transcripts. All of these changes can increasingly be analysed by dedicated NGS methods that will be used in clinics of the future to investigate common diseases and to identify the multiple defects that drive individual patients' cancers.
Our course aims to give you insights into all of these new developments and training in how to be a modern biomedical researcher.
To find out more about the core material and the optional pathways, please click on the following links:
The Taught Component
The taught part of the Course provides you with an understanding of both the background and the scientific methods that are used to investigate human diseases. We emphasise how experiments and experimental programmes are actually designed and interpreted. We aim to present the most recent scientific developments in each subject area. The course is continually updated to improve its delivery and to reflect changes in the emphasis of biomedical science.
The Course begins with Core modules that are appropriate to all specialities (click the sidebar for details).
We then offer you one of five specialist "pathways": Genetic Mechanisms, Microbes and Infection, Cardiovascular, Cancer and Experimental Medicine. Students decide on their pathway before the optional parts of the course begin in February. You don't apply for the pathway, but for the whole course. You only need to decide ten weeks into the course when you choose your project, which will also be associated with a particular pathway. We don't run quotas for pathways, so you will have a free choice. Click the sidebar to investigate the taught components of the pathways.
Modules are generally taught intensively and over a two-week period. Most of the teaching is delivered in the first week but generally we start on Wednesday so that the weekend (Saturday/Sunday) gives you an opportunity to catch up. Modules are continuously assessed by marked assignments.
A major objective of the course is to train you to formulate your own ideas and express them logically, and this will be tested in every module assessment. Many assessments involve writing essays. It is very important that you can express yourself in written English.
A twenty week laboratory-based project will also give you practical experience in
• Planning research
• Laboratory experimentation and record keeping, as well as
• Training in writing a substantial scientific document (your dissertation)
Thus the course provides an excellent basis for entering PhD training and careers in research and many of our students go on to do a PhD (see sidebar).
The Student Experience
Over the past thirteen years, we have had 573 full-time students. Historically, we have taught students from 52 different countries!
The course includes:
• Taught two-week modules that are continuously assessed through essays and exams,
• Self-directed learning modules that are assessed through dissertations
• Twenty weeks of a practical project within a laboratory, which is assessed through a dissertation,
• Continuous assessment and constructive criticism on all work throughout the year
Most of our graduates have gone on to careers in research, the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry, academia or hospital-based laboratories (see the sidebar). The experience gained during the course is excellent preparation for a PhD in the UK or elsewhere.
What do you need to know before you start?
We assume that our students have a general background in the molecular biology of eukaryotes. Test yourself. Can you get a high score on our quiz?
We strongly recommend that you prepare your understanding of how the control of gene expression, from the regulation of genes to the modification of proteins, works in human (or other animal) cells. We particularly recommend the textbooks The Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts and colleagues or Molecular Cell Biology by Lodish and colleagues.
Please don't neglect to do this preparation otherwise you will be at a disadvantage when you begin the course, particularly so compared with students who do know this material.