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A Brief History of the BTC

The Biology Teaching Centre (formerly the Biological Laboratory) was established in 1970, to coordinate and deliver an integrated Junior Freshman Biology course to students of Science (TR071), in addition to providing service teaching in Biology to pre-professional students in the Faculty of Health Sciences.  Several years later, the current system of students choosing their Moderatorship subject at the start of the Junior Sophister year saw the introduction of a new integrated Biology course at Senior Freshman level.  Responsibility for this course also rested with the BTC, and both the Junior and Senior Freshman courses were modified and developed on a regular basis.  In 2008, in compliance with the Bologna agreement, these original courses were replaced by a totally modular programme.

From the beginning, the BTC has been managed by a part-time Director, appointed by the Dean of Engineering, Mathematics and Science from among the staff of the Faculty for a three-year (renewable) term.  There have been four such Directors to date - Prof. Peter Smith-Keery (Genetics, 1970-73), Prof. WSL Roberts (Microbiology, 1973-85), Prof. Frank Winder (Biochemistry, 1985-93) and Dr John Rochford (Zoology,1993-).  The Director, assisted since 1993 by a Management Committee consisting of representatives of the ‘Biology’ disciplines, is responsible for the coordination and development of the Freshman Biology courses (including their examination) and the management of the Biology teaching laboratories. The Centre has a part-time Executive Officer, operating out of the Science Course Office, while the teaching laboratories are served by a Chief Technical Officer, two other technicians, and two laboratory attendants.

Currently the BTC has responsibility for 13 modules, each of 5-10 ECTS credit value, taken by up to 800 Freshman students in Science (TR071) and  other programmes.  Fifty lecturers from seven disciplines in four Schools contribute to these modules, further details of which may be found elsewhere on this website.


The teaching laboratory of the BTC was originally accommodated in a temporary building, situated between the Zoology, Physiology and Biochemistry buildings.  The single laboratory had seating for 100 students, increased to 132 during the 1980’s.  In 1997 the BTC moved into the ground floor of the new ‘East End 5’ development, where it now occupies a suite of three integrated, purpose-built teaching laboratories, with a total capacity of 200, together with Preparation Rooms, stores and offices in the basement of 29 Westland Row.  In addition to Freshman teaching, some Sophister practical teaching in Botany, Genetics, Neuroscience and Zoology is currently facilitated in these laboratories.


Last updated 3 December 2012 by