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Integrated BSc Immunology, Infection & Cell Pathology

This iBSc programme focuses on in‑depth understanding of the role of the immune system, infectious agents and cellular processes in the pathogenesis of diseases and of how this can be modified by treatment. We seek excellent students who wish to study the mechanisms of infectious and immunological diseases and engage with current issues faced in this area at the leading edge of medicine. We will encourage you to exploit and develop your analytical and critical abilities, to increase your scientific maturity and self-confidence, and help you build an intellectual framework for rapidly assimilating new subject areas and evaluating the claims made in contemporary medical research.

The curriculum provides a broad and comprehensive foundation in three compulsory modules on “Immunology in Health and Disease”, “Infectious Agents” and “Cellular Pathology” in term one. These are followed by a choice of two from five optional modules that allow students to extend their study of immunology, infectious diseases and/or neoplastic diseases in term two. The teaching is based on contemporary research‑led knowledge at the interface of basic and clinical science and is delivered by research-active experts in each field. Open discussion between lecturers and students is encouraged as a way of addressing important or unresolved scientific questions. Small group tutorials run through terms one and two to discuss seminal discoveries and provide experience in critical appraisal of research literature.

The taught components of this programme are complemented by a substantial laboratory research project based on the student’s interests, which spans four months of the course. This highly popular component has long been the lynchpin of this iBSc. It offers students an invaluable opportunity to experience original scientific research by becoming an integral part of leading UCL biomedical research groups. Frequently, this leads to original research publications, and provides an excellent platform for those with aspirations for careers in clinical academic research.

Each taught module represents 0.5 course units and the laboratory project represents 1.5 course units. Therefore, students will complete 4 course units, comprising the laboratory project and five taught modules, summarised in the following matrix:

INIM3002 Immunology in Health and Disease (Term 1)
Immunology in Health and Disease provides an overview of the human immune system. Starting at the molecular level (e.g. antigen recognition, antibody diversity), outlining what is known about cellular interactions within the immune system (e.g. cytokines and immunoregulation) and concluding with a consideration of the role of the immune system in host defence, its role in disease, and its possible role in determining ecology and evolution of the species. The module will cover the anatomy and constituents of the immune system and then consider the general principle of how an immune response is generated, beginning with the initial innate immune response to the development of acquired immunity. These concepts will be placed in context: how the immune system fights pathogens, how inappropriate responses can cause disease and how the immune system can be manipulated therapeutically. The module will develop from a basic to a more in depth understanding, with emphasis throughout placed on current developments in this fast moving field. The module includes a series of tutorials which provide students with an opportunity to present and discuss current research papers.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a coursework essay (20%).

INIM3003 Infectious Agents (Term 1)

The Infectious Agents module provides state-of-the-art coverage of a selection of current issues in the field of infection. No attempt is made to cover a comprehensive curriculum but, instead, students will learn the language and concepts of the field through specific research-led examples and active discussions. Themed teaching sessions given by experts comprise an introduction to the topic followed by discussion and critique of a recent paper. Papers will be provided in advance and students will be expected to come to sessions prepared to discuss the set paper critically. In some sessions students will be required to lead discussions. Assessment is a short presentation of a chosen paper and a written commentary based on this. The focus throughout the module is on reading and discussing primary literature: full participation in class discussions is essential.

The module is assessed by an in-course assessment (100%).

INIM3004 Cellular Pathology (Term1)

Cellular pathology encompasses the mechanisms by which dysfunction of cellular processes contributes to the pathogenesis of disease. In this module, we aim to give you an in-depth understanding of key cellular processes, to introduce the contemporary experimental approaches that are used to study them and to highlight the mechanisms by which their dysfunction can cause disease. The module is organised to exploit the strengths of teaching in the context of a research-rich university. The topics covered are chosen partly on their importance and partly to reflect the specific research strengths within UCL: all the lectures are given by top researchers in the field. Given the scope of molecular cell biology, the module cannot be comprehensive. Nor is it feasible in a single lecture to exhaustively cover even a single topic (for example the cell cycle). The objectives are to provide: a sufficient basic knowledge of the major processes of the cell; a flavour of what are the outstanding questions driving research in the field at present and how these could be tackled; and to equip students to begin to consider the intricate connection between cellular processes and disease.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a coursework essay (20%).

INIM3001 Laboratory-Based Research Project (Term 1 & 2)
This research project module, available only to Infection and Immunity students, aims to give you first-hand experience of original laboratory research under direct supervision of principal investigators at UCL. We assess the aspirations of each student individually to identify their preferences for potential types of project that are relevant to the broad scope of the iBSc. Together with their supervisor, students will then formulate a specific project, design and undertake experiments, and interpret /communicate their work in oral presentations and a written report. This module provides invaluable teaching in scientific methodology, laboratory techniques, critical appraisal of original experimental data, and unique insight into the potential of new discoveries. The skills acquired here provide a competitive platform for students who may wish to pursue a future research or clinical academic career.

INIM3005 Immunodeficiency & Therapeutics (Term 2)

The immune system comprises components that are involved in recognition of invading pathogens and other noxious agents, microbial killing and tissue homeostasis/repair. Therefore, deficiencies of the immune system can be associated with increased susceptibility to infectious disease or a failure to control inflammation. The study of immunodeficiencies has in fact contributed extensively to our current understanding of normal structure and function in the immune system, and in turn has led innovative approaches to manipulate immune responses for therapeutic purposes. This module seeks to explore the broad repertoire of both genetic (primary immunodeficiency) and environmental (secondary immunodeficiency) causes of impaired immunity, together with the consequences for the patient of such deficiencies and the insights provided into our understanding of the normal immune system. The treatment options that are available for these will be discussed, as well as approaches to immunomodulation including research which aims to transform gene and cell therapies into clinical applications.

In this module we aim to give you the framework and examples by which:

1. To understand the molecular basis and medical importance of selected humoral and cellular primary immunodeficiency syndromes.

2. To understand contemporary research approaches to investigate the molecular mechanisms that underlie primary immunodeficiencies, with specific examples from recent discoveries.

3. To understand the range of disorders associated with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, focussing on ageing, pregnancy, nutritional deficiency, HIV infection and iatrogenic causes such as bone marrow transplantation or immunosuppressive medication.

4. To explore how the study of mechanisms for immunodeficiency provide new insights into normal immunology and opportunities to modulate immune responses for therapeutic applications.

5. To obtain an overview of therapies that target the immune system, including biological agents, T cell or DC therapies and advances in vaccination.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a coursework essay (20%).

INIM3006  Allergy, Autoimmunity & Transplantation (Term 2)

This module focuses on disadvantageous immune responses: when the immune system causes disease by mounting undesired responses to allergens, self or transplanted tissues. We will explore the genetics and immune mechanisms underlying these responses and ask why substantial numbers of individuals react in a harmful way to normally ‘harmless’ environmental antigens such as pollens or food. We will consider autoimmunity: the breakdown in the immunological tolerance mechanisms that normally prevent pathogenic responses against our own body constituents. Organ-specific and systemic autoimmune conditions will be covered and the contribution of the various components of the immune system to the destructive process discussed. We will also explore the artificial situation of transplanting an organ or tissue from one individual to another. In addition to looking into the various immunological mechanisms involved in transplant rejection, we will investigate how transplant survival can be further improved and whether the current need for long term immunosuppression after transplantation can be overcome.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a coursework essay (20%).

INIM3007 Viruses & Disease (Term 2)

What are viruses? How do they replicate? Where do they come from? How do they enter the human population? How do they cause disease? Why do they cause epidemics? Why are some viruses much more dangerous than others? How do we control and prevent infections? This module will address these questions by exploring the remarkable and intimate interaction between virus and host at many levels: molecular, cellular, host organism and population. We will discover how viruses have adapted to optimise survival and replication in the fundamentally hostile environment that their host provides and we will discuss the many effector mechanisms that hosts deploy to prevent viral infection or control it once established.

The module is centred on the idea that an understanding of basic virology is essential for understanding viral disease. Drawing on a major strength in experimental and clinical virology at UCL, the module will provide an advanced understanding of the principles of virus replication and structure, insight into the virus-host interaction and a broad knowledge of individual virus infections, their treatment and prevention.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a paper presentation (20%).

INIM3008 Microbial Pathogenesis (Term 2)

This module focusses on bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens that cause human disease. We will consider the role of microbial virulence factors and the host-pathogen interactions that mediate disease and the way that knowledge of these can inform our clinical management strategies.

By the end of the module, students will be able to: describe the major bacterial, fungal and parasitic pathogens; describe the molecular mechanisms by which these pathogens invade and cause disease; explain the molecular pathogenesis of examples of acute and chronic infectious diseases including tuberculosis, malaria, meningitis, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections; provide an overview of the techniques for molecular diagnosis of infection and the tools for molecular epidemiology of infection; describe the mechanisms of host immune evasion.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%), a library project and a short paper presentation (20%).

INIM3009 Neoplasia & its Treatment (Term 2)

This module explores the processes and molecular mechanisms that underpin neoplastic transformation, tumour invasion and metastasis, with reference to specific haematological and solid tumours.

The aim is for the student to build on an assumed core knowledge of cell and molecular biology to understand the natural history of neoplastic disease. There is considerable emphasis on the links between normal growth, development and responsiveness, and neoplastic growth. Site specific aspects of neoplasia (e.g. colon cancer, lung cancer and leukaemia) will be considered. In addition, all these topics will be linked to lectures that explore the mechanisms of current and novel treatment modalities including chemotherapy, biologicals, stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy and gene therapy.

The module starts with an overview of current concepts of normal and abnormal growth, cancer stem cells, cell senescence and immortalisation, invasion and metastasis. We then examine cell transformation at a cellular and molecular level and look at DNA damage and repair mechanisms. The properties of the neoplastic cell are examined critically, looking at oncogenes, growth factors and their receptors and there will be a discussion about chromosome abnormalities in cancer. The link between viral infections and human tumours and the biology of oncogenic viruses and their relationship with the immune system will be explored. To put neoplastic disease in its societal context, epidemiological aspects will be covered in a separate session. There will be lectures on stem cells –an increasingly important topic, not only in our understanding of the basic science of neoplasia, but also with important therapeutic implications.

Malignant tumours are the second most common form of illness leading to death in this country. Treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, hormones and various forms of cytotoxic chemotherapy. The second part of the module will look at the mechanisms which underlie some of these forms of treatment including the molecular basis of anti-cancer drugs and the use of radiation and its effects. We will cover the basic principles of tumour immunity and the potential of immune mechanisms in the prevention, limitation and evolution of tumours. Physical and chemical oncogenic agents or carcinogens have a more subtle relationship with the immune system, and this will be explored. Lastly, the possibility of manipulating immunogenic tumours to the benefit of the individual or of using immunological weapons to attack malignant tumours will be explored, giving an insight into cancer therapies of the future; and this leads into a discussion of the potential advantages and disadvantages of gene therapy for cancer.

The module is assessed by an unseen final examination (80%) and a coursework essay (20%).

Integrated BSc Immunology, Infection and Cell Pathology/BSc Immunology and Infection

Very pleased I did it - it was the most academically challenging thing that I've done before but pushed me more than I'd thought I could be!

All the modules I took were extremely interesting but the laboratory project was the highlight of the IBSc, it was a unique chance to gain insight into the world of science and research.

This is regarded as one of the most challenging iBScs offered by the medical school, and it certainly lived up to its reputation! Having said that, I have learned an enormous amount over the past year, and have found the course challenging, but very interesting and engaging.

Most challenging and exciting programme ever!

It was a refreshing change to learn about such a variety of diseases and content but to not be dictated by what the course wants you to focus on, it was up to you to choose your fields of interest and really delve into them.

What I would say is that this course has given me a really good insight into the opportunities and realities in scientific research. Importantly, as a result of undertaking this course, a research-led career does not seem like a foreign or an alien thing to me, as it once was prior to this course.

Research-led teaching and lab project are strengths of this BSc - great preparation for a PhD/research career.

My experience of laboratory research could not have been more positive and I am definitely hoping to continue academic research alongside my clinical career in the future.

The research project was one of the key factors in my decision to choose this course. I was well briefed on what the project was about prior to choosing it and my background reading got me very interested in the area and the relevance of my research. I will be continuing on with it this summer.

I still can't believe what I've done throughout the course. It was a tough course but exceptionally rewarding. I learnt a lot of things that I had never thought of. Now, I'm able to appreciate medicine and science in a different way, which I'm really glad about. Thanks a lot for putting so much effort in this course.

INIM3002 Immunology in Health and Disease

Very well-organised and well-taught. Content is very interesting. The tutorials were really enjoyable and useful.

This lecture/seminar was immensely informative but clear and I really liked the focus on research data. At the same time it was combined with the theoretical background which made it easier to go into the data.

The tutorials were extremely helpful in learning how to analyse data in research papers and also practise public talking. I think it was a very good idea to discuss them in small groups too as the outcome was optimised for the students.

INIM3003 Infectious Agents

I really like the way that the lectures were set up with 1 hour of lecture and 1 hour of paper critique. This module has vastly improved my ability to read and interpret primary scientific papers and has given me more confidence to speak up and give my opinions in class. The elevator pitch was a really nice change from the usual essay as an in-course assessment.

I like how it is balanced between current research discussion vs. traditional lecture, much better than just having two hours of traditional lectures.. that would be so boring.. instead this gives student the initiative to read up more of what they are interested in.

Watching other people's elevator pitch sessions was awesome. Being exposed to so much research in such a short space of time and then thinking about them critically was an invaluable exercise. In general the module was exciting and fun, as each week the papers were quite interesting and the research incredibly current.

The fact that each session was based around a paper is the best thing about this module. It forced me to do the reading and it's much more interesting to learn from real research than from a textbook. The interactive nature of the sessions is also a fantastic idea.

INIM3004 Cellular Pathology

Very interesting and motivating… most of the students got really involved where some of the information overlapped with what we knew from earlier years and then it fluently, gradually got more complicated and then was backed up with interesting research evidence.

I think it was a demanding and challenging module covering a broad range of topics and thus it was interesting to study… obviously, it is important to understand the cell biology principles in a healthy and a diseased organism.

Interesting variety of topics. It was clear that a lot of planning and thought went into the choice of lectures and lecturers. The module was very well organised and I liked the structure.

INIM3005 Immunodeficiency and Therapeutics

I have learned so much in this module. I think more people should choose this module. Well maybe not...the size of the group is a good size, where everyone can participate.

I did enjoy this module a lot and am really glad for having chosen it. I found the topics covered particularly interesting content-wise, most lecturers were driven, during some lectures students got really involved. I think it was a particularly genuine module.

INIM3006 Allergy, Autoimmunity and Transplantation

The range of lectures was broad and very interesting, the module itself was well organised and the sequence of lectures "flowed" well. The problem solving exercise was very helpful.

I thought a lot of the content was very interesting, lecturers were often really prominent in their fields and seemed enthusiastic about what they were teaching.

One of the best lectures I have ever had: engaging and covered interesting and relevant topics. I am now genuinely considering specialising in one of the fields.

Each component of the module was proportionally taught I felt (i.e. allergy lectures, autoimmunity lectures AND transplantation lectures).

Integrated teaching of autoimmunity, allergy and transplantation.

INIM3007 Viruses and Disease

Interesting, current, relevant, wide range of viruses covered (but not too many that it was overwhelming!), all lecturers were fantastic, obviously passionate about their subject. Paper presentations were a good way too assess understanding and were fun to create. Great module.

I really enjoyed having such a diverse array of inspiring lectures who were really passionate about their topic.

I really enjoyed the wide range of topics covered within virology and the focus on both research and clinical practice. Also, it was a pleasure to be taught by a number of different lecturers at the top of their field.

There were clear themes and aims which all the lectures seemed relevant too.

It was very well organised, with an good range of highly relevant topics covered. The lectures themselves were excellent, and pitched at an appropriate level of complexity. Overall - fab!

Pitched at a challenging level, yet in a way that we were able to follow.

Favourite module of the 3 years I've done here!

INIM3009 Neoplasia and its Treatment

Good exposure to latest development in cancer immunology research.

Good balance of science and clinical lectures.

I liked that it covered a broad range of different neoplasias/cancer. It also covered all aspects of the disease, cause, progression treatment etc. I also liked the fact that the information we were receiving was current and relevant, for example the new mABs etc that are being developed currently. I like the structure of the module and the chronology of it works well.

I like that a range of areas were covered starting from cell cycle, looking at how drugs works, then onto biological pathways involved in some cancers. As it is under a immunology code, I'm glad a lot of the lectures were looking at targeting the immune system.

Hao Meng Yip

iBSc Student

Student Experience Image 1

”I first opted to join Pulelab because of my interest in cancer immunotherapy, which is a pivotal research area in our fight against cancer. I was especially interested in the promising chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, where T cells from the patient’s blood are genetically altered to express specific antigen receptors that will allow them to launch precise immune attacks against cancer cells. During the course of my assigned project, I worked with my supervisors to develop a novel antibody-mediated suicide gene that will have important applications in making adoptive immunotherapy such as CAR T-cell therapy safer. We engineered promising suicide gene constructs with high killing efficiencies and high inducibility. With further research we hope that these constructs will have significant potential in enabling safer adoptive immunotherapy.

During my time with Pulelab, I have been trained in various cutting-edge laboratory techniques such as molecular cloning, tissue culture and flow cytometry. These experiences will definitely prepare me well for my future research ventures. I was given the autonomy to plan the direction and pace of my experiments, which was a valuable lesson in project planning. I also had ample learning opportunities during the project to improve my various soft skills such as presentation and report-writing.

My successes with the project and my final grade would not be possible without the unwavering guidance and technical support of my direct supervisor, Dr Brian Philip, and overall supervisor, Martin Pule. Pulelab’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and its friendly working environment also contributed immensely to my scientific learning journey. Aside from the close technical assistance of my supervisors, I was able to learn from my friendly colleagues in Pulelab, who were more than happy to guide me in various essential laboratory techniques. In summary, my experiences with Pulelab and the iBSc research project have significantly improved my scientific expertise and provided me with a solid foundation for my future career in medicine.“

Laura Scolamiero

iBSc Student

Student Experience Image 2

”The iBSc in Immunology, Infection and Cell Pathology was an enriching experience that introduced me to the world of scientific research and critical thinking. The modules and exams were structured so as to cover all the topics broadly, therefore allowing us the freedom to focus on the aspects of each topic that most interested us. We took three compulsory modules that introduced the basics of immunology, infectious agents and cell pathology and two optional modules that focused on more specific areas such as immunodeficiency, neoplasia and viruses. I particularly enjoyed the Cell Pathology module, which explored in depth the intricate mechanisms involved in cell structure, transport and senescence, among others. The small-group tutorials taught us to break down and analyse scientific papers, allowing us to form our own opinions on new scientific findings. The laboratory project was the true focus of the iBSc program, however: we had the unique opportunity to be integrated into a research laboratory, to observe scientists at work and to carry out our own experiments. I greatly enjoyed my project on T cell immunotherapies for cancer and I feel that I have learned valuable techniques and skills both from the time spent in the laboratory and from the write up process, which will come in handy throughout my medical career. This was an extremely rewarding but also very challenging iBSc, which was made easier by the constant guidance and support of the coordinators, lecturers and supervisors.“

Benji Rosen

iBSc Student

Student Experience Image 4

”With such a heavy focus on the project, this iBSc gave me the time, the support and the contacts to be able to delve head first into some ground-breaking research. The exams at the end were refreshingly different form first and second year, with barely any focus at all on simple information recall. Instead they contained broad questions that gave me the opportunity to show off the most interesting concepts I had learned this year and critically discuss recent research to emerge from my favourite fields. Some lectures were unnecessarily complex or a bit boring, but I ignored those and made the most of the lectures that interested me instead. Run by Maddy and Richard, who are the warmest and best guides I could have hoped for, this iBSc is a well-organised, fun and mind-bending adventure.“

Benji’s photo was taken from the Boston Oncolytic Virus Conference, which took place in June 2014. Benji was the first author of a poster following six months of work on oncolytic measles virus.

John Ye

iBSc Student

”The iBSc experience was enjoyable, insightful and gave me an invaluable opportunity to explore a particular topic of interest. With regards to the core modules in the first term, I believe they were useful not only to review principles and concepts taught in the first year, but also to introduce interesting new areas of immunology that formed the foundation of many of the lectures taught in the second term. I found that the wide range of topics taught was likely to ensure that the majority of students could engage in at least a few of the lectures. The optional modules followed a more focused approach and I particularly enjoyed studying in greater depth biological processes from an immunological perspective. In regards to exams, I particularly appreciated the format of the optional module exams, since by allowing students a choice of 6 questions, I was able to focus on revising a topic of interest and follow this up by reading recent literature rather than having to learn everything but not necessarily appreciating all that was taught. On the whole, the lecturers were very good.

The research project was an experience that I will never forget. At first, I learnt a few simple techniques and about life on the labs before being allowed to independently carry out experiments. The research staff were friendly, patient and supportive if I required help, in particular Professor David Sansom and Dr Alan Kennedy. I would highly recommend this lab for students wanting to undertake an iBSc project. In addition, the specific nature of the project allowed me to develop a greater ability to analyse, appreciate and use published literature in the writing up of my dissertation. Due to the lack of exposure to research papers in previous years, this gave me a chance to develop these skills which will be of great benefit to me in the future.

Finally, the staff in charge of the course and the module leads were approachable and willing to answer any questions that I had. I found the order in which the lectures were taught was sensible.

Overall, I believe the course was an invaluable experience which will form the foundation for my career. I’m am very grateful to all the staff for making this iBSc experience so enjoyable.“

Further information about this programme can be obtained from:
Divisional Teaching Administrator: Mr Derek Kempen
Programme Director: Dr Richard Milne

Page last modified on 16 nov 15 11:16 by Jade A E Donovan