MEDSCI314

IMMUNOLOGY

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 15%

Laboratory Component: 20%

Essay assignment: 10% 

Exam: 55%

Course Information

 

Course textbook:

  • Murphy et al. Janeway's Immunobiology, 9th Edition, Garland Science, 2017.

High recommended textbooks

  • Delves et al. Roitt's Essential Immunology, 13th Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

  • Abbas et al. Cellular and Molecular Immunology, 9th Edition, Elsevier, 2017.

  • Tak et al. Primer to the Immune Response, 2nd Edition, AP Cell Press, 2014.

All of these textbooks can be found on MEDSCI 314 Canvas page under the reading lists tab. There is typically no required readings for any lectures but these course textbooks can be useful to expand on the content taught in the lectures and as self-learning resources.



Official UoA Website: Link

Basic Information

With three lectures a week (in-person and recorded for lectures 1-12, online pre-recorded for lectures 13-30) and sometimes one lecture feeling like the price of two, MEDSCI 314 delivers a comprehensive and thorough coverage of the molecular and clinical aspects of immunology. Even with three lectures, the amount of content that is covered over the semester is much more than your average second year MEDSCI or BIOSCI paper (and in my experience, more than some third year MEDSCI papers), so it’s important that you are sure that you will be able to handle the workload of this course on top of all the other courses that you will be taking. Nevertheless, it is an extremely enjoyable and rewarding course for anyone that is interested in or passionate about immunology (such as myself). 

 

In 2021, the lectures were covered in set blocks, some entirely run by a single lecturer, while others run by multiple lecturers bringing in their different research interests. To add, some lecture slots were replaced with a tutorial (for the mid-semester test) and introduction sessions to the upcoming lab. As the course progresses, a lot of the content will overlap with earlier lectures and even other courses as well (e.g. lectures on hypersensitivity were a common theme in both MEDSCI 301 and MEDSCI 314). Finally, the notes in the course guide are typically a primitive version of the corresponding lecturer’s actual slides, and can contain important diagrams that are the basis of each lecture while also containing comprehensive summary notes (as seen in Dr. Chris Hall’s section). Available as a pdf file and word document on Canvas, the notes are excellent and will provide immensely useful in your revision process.

 

This year in 2021, the mid-semester test took place online (on Inspera) at the end of week 8 (just after the mid-semester break due to the move onto online learning) and consisted of 50 MCQ’s and covered content from lectures 1-15 and lab 1 (which were all delivered before the mid-semester break). The final exam on the other hand (also completed online), consisted of a mixture of both MCQs (which was laboratory-inclusive) and 10 short answer questions from both halves of the semester of which you choose 8 from. 

 

There was also a tutorial session for the MST (instead of a lecture) held via zoom on the last lecture slot of week 7 before the mid-semester break. Because only a few people typically turn up it’s a good idea to get all your questions in and curiosities resolved while you have the chance to do so. However if you couldn’t make the tutorial session a recording of the tutorial was provided – which is helpful to look over again while studying as some lecturers may guide you to which learning objectives are the most important to focus on. Ho Joon also ran an exam tutorial session via zoom where he provides information on the exam format (not lecture-specific content, but I assume he will be willing to answer lab-related questions as he is responsible for coordinating them). 

 

This year, there was also a 10% essay assignment in which you had to choose a topic given by one of the lecturers in the course. While you get a couple of months to complete the essay assignment, it’s always a good idea to get started early and not leave it too late as lecturers have high expectations from students in stage three. Begin to find relevant research papers early and write a draft that you can refine throughout the semester at a manageable pace! 

 

Laboratory Component

There were only three laboratories for MEDSCI314 (of which two had to be done online in 2021), and thankfully, you won't have to write up a full-on physiology style lab report like you did for MEDSCI 205 or 206. Instead we were required to hand in an assignment sheet with questions on it relating to the practical laboratory session held almost two weeks prior. A lot of these questions are very simple and straightforward, with the lead lab demonstrators and tutors being very friendly and helpful in the lab as they often give you the answers to the questions so please do pay close attention at all times. A tutorial session held prior to each laboratory also took place during the usual lecture slot prior to lab commencement so make sure you attend these to get a good idea on what you will be doing as there are multiple stations and tasks for you to complete. For lab 2 and 3 these lab tutorial sessions were posted as pre-recorded lectures and were available once the lab assignments opened. Also in 2021 close to the lab assignments due dates Ho Joon would run lab tutorial sessions which is the perfect opportunity to ask any questions regarding the assignments and any of the technical components. These tutorials were also extra useful for lab 2 and 3 as since they were ran online (and therefore couldn’t directly interact with any lab demonstrators like you would be able to do in-person) the lab tutorials provide the perfect opportunity to do so. 

 

The first laboratory is centred around Immune System Components, the second on Immune System Malfunction and the third and final on Immune Function.

Be wary that although the assignment questions appear simple and straightforward, students in previous years still got lower marks than expected and was marked down on small details such as writing 'phagocytosis' instead of 'IgG-mediated phagocytosis' - so please be careful and don’t become too complacent in your answers. 

 

Lecture Content

1. Introduction and evolution of the immune system 

 

As the first module of the six-part course, the first two lectures covered the basics of immunology and crucial foundation knowledge for any budding immunologist. The course director Dr. Christopher Hall himself kicked off the course with two lectures on the following topics:

 

(1) An introductory lecture covering the historical orientation of immunology, types of immune responses and the interplay between the innate and adaptive immune response.

 

(2) Evolution of the immune systems; origins of innate and adaptive immune systems

 

Dr. Hall is a very friendly lecturer who you should not be afraid to approach him for help if you require it. Because of the reduction in teaching hours, he does try to pack in as much information in his lectures, so make sure you keep up with his faster pace. 

 

2. Architecture of the immune system 

 

Following on from his first module, Dr. Hall continues to teach into the second and third modules. This module also consisted only of two lectures, where he briefly went over the various components of the immune system (including the types of cells; cell interactions; processes; lymphatic organs and T & B cell development), all of which will be expanded in lectures delivered by other lecturers later in the course. 

 

3. Innate immune response 

 

In this module, Dr. Hall expands on the components of the innate immune response in great depth, covering topics such as the recognition of ‘danger’ by the pattern recognition receptors, the complement system and phagocytic process, as well as the complex process of inflammation with its various components. 

 

4. Adaptive immune response 

 

As one of the most content-heavy module of the course (with a total of 9 lectures on adaptive immunity), this series of lectures is run by multiple lecturers that go into depth with the various aspects of the adaptive immune response. 

 

In 2021, the module started off with Dr. Fiona Radcliff and her six lectures covered humoral immunity, generation of diversity, MHC structure and function, immune cell receptors, antigen processing and presentation, and T cell activation and effector subsets. While her lectures contain a lot of information, the slides themselves don’t have much written on them (with most being diagrams that she goes into comprehensively in the lectures), so I recommend that you active write down the key points that she discusses in each slide and ask her about any confusions that you have - she’s a lovely lecturer :) 

 

The next two lectures were run by Dr. Nikki Moreland that covered central and peripheral tolerance, as well as the immune system in health diagnosis. Dr. Moreland is a fantastic lecturer that also teaches MEDSCI202 and BIOSCI349. And with her slides and lecturing style being very clear and direct, you shouldn’t have too much trouble learning her content. 

 

The last lecture on this module was taught by Dr. Hall where he covered mucosal and cutaneous immunity. The content in this lecture (lecture 16) was not examinable in the mid-semester test. 

 

The last lecture slot of the first half of the semester was a class tutorial, and as mentioned above, was held via zoom led by Chris and Ho Joon, where students could ask questions and clear up on any confusing concepts before the mid-semester test. In 2021 Dr. Radcliff and Dr. Moreland were present in the zoom for a small time to answer any questions students may have had surrounding their content. But note that as the tutorial was mainly led by Dr. Hall If you have any questions on any of the other sections which you weren’t able to cover in the tutorial, you should email the individual lecturers or enquire on piazza. 

 

 

5. Immune system in health and disease 

 

Being the other content-heavy module with a total of 11 lectures (but in my opinion, less content than in adaptive immunity), this part of the course provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the immune system and its implications in the clinical context. 

 

The first two lectures were delivered by Associate Prof. Thomas Proft, in which he discusses immunity to infection. Dr. Moreland then came back for the next three lectures to talk about immunodeficiencies, allergy and hypersensitivity, and autoimmunity, followed by two lectures on principles of vaccines covered by Dr. Fiona Radcliff. Prof. Larry Chamley then lectured on Reproductive Immunology and Immune Privilege (note: in previous years, he tested his numbers in the exam so it may be worthwhile to write them down in your notes for reference in your online exam). The last part of this module, which was on tumour and therapeutic immunology, was taught by Prof. Rod Dunbar who is very engaging and is highly active in these particular research fields. 

 

6. Emerging areas in immunology 

 

This is a very useful section for budding scientists and should be highly interesting for all students. Dr. Hall gave two lectures on Immunometabolism and Trained Immunity, followed by Dr. Radcliff, who finished off the course with her lecture on the Gut Microbiota. A final review followed, run by Chris and Ho Joon again, where the exam format was reinforced and students could ask questions on their contributions to the lecture and lab content. 

 

Final Tips

  • Make use of PIAZZA and ask lots of questions! The course coordinator Dr. Ho Joon Lee is one of the best course coordinators and will answer your questions with utmost sincerity.

  • For those who have classes in City or Tamaki Campus, be aware of back-to-back lectures between Grafton Campus.

  • The class size was around 55 in 2021, with usually only 2-20 turning up each lecture, so there are lots of opportunities to engage with fellow classmates and of course, the lecturers! 

  • If you’re interested in any of the lecturers’ research areas (which some components of their lectures will be based on), don’t hesitate to go up and talk to them about it - especially if you’re interested in pursuing postgraduate studies with them! They will most definitely be delighted to talk to students about their research.