Module code: BMS1047

Module Overview

The purpose of this module is to give a broad introduction to the essential concepts of molecular biology and genetics that are critical to any undergraduate programme in biosciences.


Lectures are divided into four parts: The first part of the module focuses on the central dogma of molecular biology, moving on to mutation and its consequences in human disease. Part 2 will introduce basic methods in molecular biology including gene cloning, PCR, and mutation analysis. Part 3 will introduce model organisms, explain the difference in genome structure and provide a brief introduction into genomics and essential bioinformatics. The last part is focused on the control of gene expression in bacteria and eukaryotes; we focus in this module on the transcriptional control of gene expression but basic aspects of post-transcriptional control will also be covered. Each group of lectures will be supplemented by optional revision feedback tutorials (including presentation of example MCQs).


Practicals reinforce the theoretical part of the module and include:

1) Plasmid-mediated gene transfer (in the context of the spread of antibiotic resistance)

2a) Phenotypic analysis of conjugants by antibiotic resistance profiling. Genotypic analysis of conjugants by PCR.

2b) Gel electrophoresis of PCR products. Bioinformatic analysis of the PCR-amplified gene.


The practical element is one study encompassing several linked experiments. It requires the students to undertake a mathematical analysis of plasmid transfer efficiencies, PCR amplification of plasmid genes, analysis of the products, and then analysis of the gene sequence using basic bioinformatics. An introduction to relevant genome databases will be given before the Easter break. Students are required to prepare one practical report covering the whole study.

Module provider

School of Biosciences and Medicine

Module Leader

GERBER Andre (Biosc & Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The lectures are based on Lodish et al. Molecular Cell Biology, 7th edition.


Part 1: Basic Molecular Genetic Mechanism (Chapter 4)

•             Molecules of Life: DNA-RNA-proteins; central dogma of molecular biology (L1)

•             Nucleic acid structure (L2)

•             Transcription of protein coding genes, mRNA (L3)

•             Eukaryotic mRNA processing, decoding mRNA by tRNA (L4)

•             Protein synthesis, translation (L5)

•             DNA replication (L6)

•             DNA repair and recombination (L7)

•             Feedback revision tutorial (T1)

Part 2: Methods in Molecuar Biology (Chapter 5)

•             Genetic analysis of mutation Gene cloning: tools and basic concepts (including PCR, plasmids) (L8)

•             DNA cloning, plasmids and PCR (L9)

•             Gene expression, biotechnology (L10)

•             Identifiying human disease genes (L11)

•             Feedback revision tutorial (T2)

Part 3: Genes, Genomics and Chromosomes (parts of Chapter 6)

•             Eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic gene structure (L12)

•             Chromosomal organization of genes & genomics (L13)

•             Structure/function of eukaryotic chromosomes (L14)

•             Feedback revision tutorial (T3)

•             Introduction to essential bioinformatics and databases (L15)

Part 4: Control of  gene expression (parts of Chapter 7 & 8)

•             Control of bacterial gene expression (substrate induction, feedback control; operons and regulons) (L16)

•             Overview of eukaryotic gene expression (polymerases, transcription factors, repression/activation)(L17)

•             RNA polymerases, promotors, concept of TFs (L18)

•             Posttranscriptional control (L19)

•             Feedback revision tutorial (T4)

•             Activator/repressors of transcription, DNA motifs (L20)

•             Transcriptional repression and activation (L21)

•             Regulation of TF activity (L22)

•             Epigenetics (L23)

•             Feedback revision tutorial (T5)

•             General feedback revision tutorials with most lecturers (2 hours; T6, T7)


Practical sessions:

•             1: Plasmids, transfer of antibiotic resistance, analysis of gene transfer efficiency

•             2a: PCR, antibiotic disc diffusion assays

•             2b: agarose gel electrophoresis, bioinformatic analysis of sequence data

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Practical based assessment COURSEWORK - PRACTICAL REPORTS 30
Examination EXAMINATION - MCQS 100 - 90 MINUTES 70

Alternative Assessment

Practical Report written up with example data sets provided.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate a sound knowledge of the basic principles and practice of molecular biology and genetics. The exam assesses the first four learning outcomes and the practical write-up assesses the final three.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


·         A 90 minute MCQ exam comprising 100 questions (5 choices, one correct answer) covering material across the entire module

·         One practical report submitted for assessment approximately 2 weeks after completion of the experiments.


Formative assessment and feedback


Electronic voting systems are used in some of the lectures and revision tutorials to provide formative assessment, including both regular and frequent instant feedback to students on their individual progress. A class feedback session is given following each practical, and each student receives an individual feedback sheet along with his/her practical report.

Module aims

  • Instil a basic understanding of prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology and genetics
  • Reinforce the lectures by conducting experimental investigations in the laboratory and through the use of bioinformatic tools

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Describe the key elements of the central dogma of molecular biology KT
2 Describe genome and chromosome structure and understand the scope of genomics KT
3 Describe basic techniques in molecular biology and their applications KT
4 Explain how mutations occur and what their consequences may be KCT
5 Describe basic control of gene expression KT
6 Explain the key differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes in the above respects KCT
7 Plan and undertake quantitative experiments investigating gene transfer in bacteria KCPT
8 Plan and undertake qualitative experiments to amplify the DNA of a gene by PCR, and perform basic bioinformatic analysis KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:


i)             Provide the students with the basic molecular biology and genetics knowledge they will require to understand the rest of their bioscience courses and to build an essential foundation for the Level 5 course;

ii)            Enable the students to understand that molecular biology and genetics is relevant to many different bioscience areas, in particular through the use of case studies.


The learning and teaching methods include:


There are typically two or three lectures given per week; electronic voting systems are implemented in some lectures to provide interactive revision and formative assessment, including both regular and frequent instant feedback to the students on their own progress. Peer-to-peer interaction in these sessions consolidates the learning of the concepts and facts. There are also dedicated revision tutorials through the course and at the end (total 7 hours).


The students gain experience of working in small groups (pairs or triplets) in three practicals. The students are required to write up one practical report. This provides good practice in presenting concise, structured scientific writing and also requires the students to conduct mathematical and bioinformatic analysis of their own data.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: BMS1047

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Microbiology BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Biomedical Science BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Veterinary Biosciences BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Biological Sciences BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Nutrition BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Food Science and Nutrition BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Nutrition and Dietetics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Biochemistry BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Biochemistry MSci (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.