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Department of Pathology


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Department of Pathology

Pathology is concerned with the scientific study of disease, and is one of the foundations of medical science and practice. It encompasses all aspects of disease, including knowledge of the causes and effects of disease, and the organisms response to disease. The cause of a disease is often an injurious agent, though sometimes disease results from certain defects or deficiencies. A knowledge of how an organism responds to disease is important as sometimes disease arises as a result of an innate response of the organism to injury or infection.

Pathology is one of the largest of the Biology Departments in Cambridge and many divergent interests are represented within it. In addition, it draws upon teaching expertise from the Medical and Veterinary Clinical Schools.

The Course

Second year courses are offered to students progressing either to the Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos (NST) examination or to the Part IB of the MVST examination.

The MVST Part IB course Biology of Disease is a major component of Part IB Pathology, and is a compulsory core curriculum course for Medical and Veterinary Science students. In addition, each year more than one hundred Natural Science Tripos students also elect to read Part IB Biology of Disease. Having already read one or more biological subjects in Part IA is an advantage, although not absolutely necessary.

Biology of Disease will be taught to MVST and NST students during the Michaelmas and Lent terms.  In the Easter term, NST students will follow a separate course on the 'The immune system as a protagonist in disease pathology'.

The overall aim of the Part IB Pathology course is to explore the underlying general principles of Pathology and to illustrate them using specific examples. This endeavour encompasses a broad range of biological disciplines, including molecular biology, genetics, and cell biology. The course provides an introduction to the processes of disease, including infection; inflammation and immunity; abnormalities of growth, including cancer; disorders of blood vessels and blood coagulation.The lectures are closely integrated with practical sessions that take place twice each week.


Students are expected to attend two practical classes each week. These are a vital component of the course. The classes are closely integrated with the lectures, and are designed to extend and complement the lecture material. They provide an opportunity for students to consolidate and expand the lecture material, and to see first hand material that has been discussed in the lectures, for example in the bacteriology and parasitology practical classes, students will observe and work with bacterial species and parasitic organisms that have been referred to in the lectures.

Practical class sheets containing questions, answers, worked examples and high-resolution images can be found on the Part IB Moodle site .