New IB options for Biology and Chemistry

Priya Acharya

Hi! My name’s Priya, Biology and Chemistry tutor at The Edge Learning Center. I’m here to give you a rundown of the new IB options for both subjects. I’m sure you’re all aware that the format changed slightly for 2016 and now both SL and HL students only need to pick ONE option out of four.

I’ll briefly explain each option and what you should expect to learn from them.




Option A – Neurobiology. Here we will look at the development of neurones and the neural tube. We’ll also look at our most fascinating organ, the brain in more detail and how we use our sensory receptors to detect changes in the environment. The HL aspects of this option looks at the differences between innate and learned behaviour, the action of neurotransmitters and how certain drugs can affect the brain and lastly Ethology…you’ll have to sign up to the course to find out more!

Option B – Biotechnolleafogy and Bioinformatics. Sounds like a mouthful but here we take a closer look at the fascinating use of microorganisms in industrial processes (think fermentation!). We’ll also take a look at the use of microorganisms as a response to incidents of pollution. The HL students will also study how we detect infection by pathogens and how Bioinformatics helps  scientists to easily access this information by means of databases.

Option C – Ecology and Conservation. In this option you learn more about species, communities and ecosystems. You will also gain a better insight of the impact of humans on ecosystems, using lots of real life case studies as examples. We’ll also look at biodiversity and how various groups are working together to conserve it. For HL you will also study Population Ecology; how we estimate population size and factors affecting population growth and lastly revisit the term ‘eutrophication’ when we study the Nitrogen and Phosphorus cycles!

Option D – Human Physiology. In this interesting option we will study human nutrition and what we mean by ‘essential minerals and nutrients’. Digestion and the functions of the liver are also covered. The heart is also a topic and you will learn what causes the sound of a heartbeat and factors affecting heart-rate and blood pressure. HL students will also learn about hormones and metabolism and transport of O2 and CO2 in respiration.



Option A – Materials. In this option you will learn how materials are classified based on factors such as their properties, bonding and structure.  Spectroscopy is studied in more detail, as are catalysts and polymers. You will also learn about nanotechnology and also discuss the environmental impact of plastics use. HL students will also look at superconducting metals, X-ray crystallography, condensation polymers and the environmental impact of heavy metals. This option isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you love analytics then this is for you!


Option B – Biochemistry. Firstly we will look at what biochemistry is and its importance in living organisms. You will then study biomolecules in more detail, looking closely at how their structure is related to function. This option also raises awareness of the environmental implications of science and technology and we will discuss biodegradable plastics and ‘green chemistry’.  HL students  will study protein, enzymes, nucleic acids and biological pigments such as porphyrins and carotenes.  Lovers of organic chemistry will enjoy the last topic; stereoisomerism in molecules such as lipids and carbohydrates.

Option C – Energy. This option incorporates energy sources, including renewable sources and fossil fuels. You will also learn about nuclear fusion and fission and discuss storage and disposal of nuclear waste. Solar energy and advantages and disadvantages of biofuels form part of this option. Global warming is also taught e.g. greenhouse gases and how to reduce them. HL students will also study electrochemical cells, rechargeable batteries and various fuel cells. Nuclear fusion and fission are covered in more detail, focussing on nuclear energy and radioactive decay. The final topic is photovoltaic cells and dye-sensitized solar cells….choose this course if you want to learn more!

Option D – Medicinal Chemistry.This option begins with an introduction to the world of medicinal chemistry, here we will talk about measuring the safety and effectiveness of drugs and how new drugs are developed. Mechanism of action of specific drug groups, including opiates, penicillins and aspirin are also taught. Drugs used to regulate the pH of the stomach is covered, which incorporates knowledge of acid-base buffers. You will also learn about antiviral medications and the different ways in which they work. Again environmental impact is an issue, this time focussing on medical waste and the environment. The HL topics focus on organic chemistry, looking at the chiral auxiliary of the drug taxol, some nuclear chemistry when we discuss the use of radionuclides in medicine and more on methods of analysis for the detection of drugs.

Whichever option you decide to choose, I’m on hand to make sure you boost your marks for the final exam!