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MEDSCI314

IMMUNOLOGY

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 20%
Laboratory Component: 20%
Exam: 60%

Course Information

 

Prescribed textbook: There are no prescribed textbooks, a 'highly recommended' textbooks is:

Tak W. Mak, Mary E. Saunders, Bradley D. Jett. Primer and the Immune Response. 2nd ed. Elsevier, 2004.
ISBN: 987-12-385245-8

Other immunology textbooks and self-learning resource details can be found in your Course Guide.

Official UoA Website: Link

Basic Information

With four video-recorded* lectures a week 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. Four lectures a week means more content (compared to other papers that have two or three lectures a week) and you should keep this in mind before selecting this paper. In 2017, the lectures were not covered in set blocks by each lecturer - the timetable scheduling allowed the lecturers to teach randomly throughout the semester (which might get a bit confusing for students). Thankfully, this isn't as bad as it sounds - in 2017 there were no lectures in weeks 6 and 12 to allow you extra time to prepare for the mid-semester test and final exam respectively, and some lecture slots were in fact for laboratory and lecture tutorials bringing the total number of teaching lectures to 31. 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 either a primitive version of the corresponding lecturer’s actual slides, or very comprehensive (sometimes excessive) written notes. Although printed in black and white only, the notes are excellent and will provide immensely useful in your revision process.

This year in 2017, the mid-semester test took place at the end of week 6 just before the mid-semester break and consisted of 50 MCQs covering lectures 1-15 (all the lectures prior to that week) and the first laboratory, while the final exam consisted of a mixture of both MCQs which was laboratory-inclusive and ten short written answers from both halves of the semester of which you will have no choice over - i.e. you have to do all ten.

*Technical issues were experienced this year so please don't assume they are always available!

 

Laboratory Component

There were only three laboratories for MEDSCI 314, and thankfully you won't have to write up a full-on physiology style lab report like you did for MEDSCI 205 or 206 either. Instead we were required to hand in an assignment sheet with questions on it relating to the practical laboratory session held 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. 

The first laboratory is centered 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, personally for me I 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 do become too complacent in your answers.

 

Lecture Content

1. Basic Immunology

The larger of the three part-course, the first 20 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 four lectures on the following topics:

  • An introductory lecture covering the historical orientation of immunology, types of immune responses and the interlay between the innate and adaptive immune response.

  • Evolution of the immune systems; origins of innate and adaptive immune systems

  • Components of the Immune System 1: Types of cells; cell interactions; processes.

  • Components of the Immune System 2: Primary & Secondary Organs, T & B cell development.

 
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.

Dr. Jonathan Astin then took over for one lecture on the lymphatic system where using a zebrafish model he ties together some concepts taught in lectures 3 and 4 earlier.

Following him was Dr Nikki Moreland with one lecture on (i) Self & non-self-discrimination. Dr. Moreland is a fantastic lecturer that also teaches MEDSCI 202. Her slides and lecturing style is very clear and direct.
 
Up next was an introductory lecture to the innate immune system given by Dr. Fiona Radcliff before a 5 lecture series was given by Professor John Fraser on the following topics:

  • Complement System and Phagocytosis

  • Humoral Immunity and Antibodies

  • The Generation of Diversity

  • MHC Structure and Function

  • Immune Cell Receptors


​Professor Fraser is a fantastic lecturer but his content is, in my opinion, the most conceptually difficult to understand in the entire course and furthermore, he delivers a lot of content. However, if you go through his material a few times, re-watch the recordings and email him where you are unsure it all does make a lot more sense and less complicated than when you initially studied it. He gives comprehensive notes in the course guide, so it will be beneficial to read through those notes and figure out what he doesn’t want you to know (he will tell you exactly what during his lecture sessions).

The remaining lectures for the first half of the semester were on Inflammation, Antigen Processing & Presentation and T cell activation and Effector Subsets delivered by Dr. Chris Hall, Associate Professor Thomas Proft and Dr. Fiona Radcliff respectively. A class tutorial led by the lecturers was held afterwards during the usual allocated Friday lecture slot for students to ask questions and clear up on any confusing concepts before the mid-semester test the following week before the mid-semester break.

Coming back from your mid-semester test and break were two lectures on the Immune System in Health Diagnosis and Central & Peripheral Tolerance given by Dr Nikki Moreland, followed by Dr. Chris Hall’s lecture on Mucosal and Cutaneous Immunity.
Professor Larry Chamley then lectured on Reproductive Immunology and Immune Privilege (hint: He did test his numbers in the exam so make sure you know them!!)

Congratulations on getting this far and here comes Part 2!!

 

2. Clinical Immunology

The clinical immunology module of MEDSCI 314 takes the foundation knowledge you learned in part 1 and applies them to a wide variety of different interesting clinical cases of human diseases for you to see what role the immune system plays in them and how their malfunction or dysregulation can cause the undesirable symptoms we see. 

Associate Professor Thomas Proft comes back to deliver two lectures on Immunity to Infection, followed by Dr. Chris Hall, who gave two lectures on (i) Allergy & Hypersensitivity and (ii) Autoimmunity.
Dr. Radcliffe then gives a Vaccines lecture, followed by Dr. Leanne Berkahn on Tumour Immunology and Therapeutic Immunology. In 2017, Dr. Berkhan was ill for her lecture series, so there was difficulty in learning the content. Hence, her lectures were postponed to dates that were reserved for personal study time, and her section was only tested in MCQs. There was also difficulty in obtaining all of the updated notes for Dr. Berkahn's lecture slides so needless to say please do your best to stay on top of all your lectures to prevent the urge to last-minute catch-up and cram before the exam only to find the necessary resources unavailable. 

 

3. Emerging Areas

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. Radclffe on Gut Microbiota.

Finishing off the course was one lecture from Associate Professor Booth on Psychoneuroimmunology. A final review followed, where the exam format was once again reinforced and brought the teaching component of MEDSCI 314 to a close with week 12 still to spare!! 

 

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 is around 30, so there are lots of opportunities to engage with fellow classmates and of course, the lecturers!