Module code: MHUM006

Module Overview

This module explores the molecular and genetic basis of nutrients in health and disease.  Taught by a collective expertise within the University’s School of Biosciences, students will be well equipped with the fundamentals of molecular biology and how this is applied to current research and understanding in nutrition.  By the end of the module, students will be able to critically appraise topical research in this area and evaluate how new knowledge helps underpin current understanding of disease. 

Module provider

School of Biosciences

Module Leader

ELLIOTT Ruan (Biosciences)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 70

Lecture Hours: 20

Tutorial Hours: 4

Guided Learning: 50

Captured Content: 6

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

Previous attendance of MHUM001, MHUM003 and MHUM005

Module content

The taught components of this module provide a broad the application of molecular biological, genetic and genomic techniques to nutrition research, providing specific context for this information using relevant case studies. Examples of lecture topics include: 

  • Introduction to molecular nutrition 

  • Genetic epidemiology in nutritional sciences  

  • Functional genomics 

  • Bioinformatics for biologists 

  • Nutrition and epigenetics 

  • Dietary origins of health and disease 

  • Molecular/genetic elucidation of iron homeostasis 

  • Dietary modulation of DNA repair 

To support the first element of assessment, a tutorial on critical appraisal of scientific literature is included. This provides advice on approaches to the critical appraisal process and gives the students the opportunity undertake informal group work, practicing with an example scientific paper. For the critical appraisal coursework, the students are allocated into groups to review the research article set for them and benefit from peer learning. Each group is then offered the option of a 1-hour tutorial with the module convenor, which they are expected to lead, where they can seek advice and support on the more technical and challenging elements of the research they are reviewing. A whole class tutorial is also provided prior to the submission deadline for the structured written coursework. 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment

For the group work assessment an equivalent piece of coursework will be set for presentation (critical appraisal) or essay resubmission via SurreyLearn

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: 



  • Understanding of a wide range of molecular mechanisms by which cells and tissues sense and respond to nutrient exposure and the potential impact of these effects on human health (via both the student group presentations and structured written coursework). 

  • Understanding and awareness of the fundamentals of the molecular biological methods used in nutrition/nutrigenomic research through a combination of verbal presentation and written work. 

  • The ability to critically appraise and interpret current scientific literature in the field of molecular nutrition and nutrigenomics (critical appraisal presentations and structured written coursework). 

  • The ability to analyse and interpret research data (critical appraisal and structured written coursework). 

  • The ability to construct coherent succinct scientific arguments (critical appraisal and structured written coursework). 


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A critical appraisal of a nutrigenomic research paper (group work)

  • Structured written assignment with data analysis and data interpretation


Formative assessment 

The critical appraisal tutorial at the beginning of the module gives the students the opportunity to undertake guided group work appraising a scientific paper and get? Feedback and discuss their appraisal with the entire cohort. This exercise is designed to provide advance practice for the critical appraisal coursework.  



  • Verbal guidance and feedback during optional group tutorials prior to group critical appraisals

  • Written feedback following submission of group critical appraisals

  • Written feedback on written assignment

Module aims

  • To provide an overview of the molecular biological tools as they are used in the context of nutrition research
  • To provide insight into the interplay between nutrient status/exposure, genetics, molecular mechanisms for maintaining homeostasis, health and disease

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 The ability to describe a wide range of molecular mechanisms by which cells and tissues sense and respond to nutrient exposure/nutritional status KC
002 A comprehensive understanding and awareness of the fundamentals of the molecular biological methods used in nutrition/nutrigenomic research KC D
003 An opportunity to critically evaluate the opportunities and the particular challenges nutrition researchers face in employing genomic research tools KCPT E, G, R, S
004 The opportunity to describe fully the mechanisms by which particular nutrients impact upon health KCT G
005 The ability to critically appraise and interpret current scientific literature in the field of molecular nutrition and nutrigenomics KCPT D, E, G

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching methods include: 

Lectures, tutorials and group work. Some additional pre-recorded material is made available to students to enable them to delve more deeply into specific topic areas.  Students are encouraged to be active participants in tutorials and to lead in the critical appraisal group tutorials. Students are also expected to extend their reading beyond the lectures and to make use of additional material provided to support each topic.   

Both elements of assessment provide opportunities for self-directed and peer-supported learning. 

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: MHUM006

Other information

How this module aligns to the 5 pillars of the curriculum  

Digital Capabilities: Students will engage with online material and resources via SurreyLearn, and other digital platforms.   For the structured written coursework, the students will need to analyse and present data using suitable software (e.g. Excel or GraphPad), as well as learning to use specific online data analysis tools to calculate parameters such as odds ratio, the confidence interval and the P-values. The module introduces concepts underpinning advanced bioinformatic data analyses strategies (e.g. multivariate statistics and machine learning-based pattern recognition for biomarker development) and the students have the opportunity to investigate and use information from open access genetic databases (such as dbSNP) when completing their coursework. 

Employability: This module focuses on fundamental scientific research. However, it addresses science that is, or will be, critical for many careers graduates of this course are likely to pursue – molecular and genetic science that is not addressed in the other modules. In particular, the concept of personalized (or precision) nutrition targeted to population subgroups or individuals is developed and discussed in detail. The relevance of this for those going into the food industry, working with patients/customers as dietitians, nutritionists and sports/fitness instructors is introduced at the outset and continued throughout the module. Other career opportunities, such as genetic councillors, are also highlighted.  

In addition to this specific scientific content, the module assessment is designed to develop key transferable skills including critical thinking and evaluation, data analysis, data interpretation, teamwork, presentation skills, sourcing relevant scientific information and using all these to construct concise coherent arguments.  

Global and cultural capabilities: The module’s focus on personalized/precision nutrition brings ethnic, lifestyle and life stage differences in metabolism and dietary requirements to the forefront of discussions. The taught material considers all this in the context of cultural differences in diet.  Students are provided with the opportunity, and encouraged, to bring their own diverse perspectives to discussions on these topics throughout the module. 

Resourcefulness and resilience: The coursework and learning opportunities in the module are designed to support students to further develop their resourcefulness and resilience. For the critical appraisal, students are tasked with evaluating a recent nutrigenomic research paper. They will need to evaluate: 

  • The background to, and justification for, the research by exploring the scientific literature 

  • The study design and the quality of study execution, including use and analysis of highly technical nutrigenomic methodologies 

  • The quality of the research findings and validity of the conclusions 

To help students succeed with this challenging task, they are encouraged to work in groups, benefiting from peer-learning, and then to take up the option of a 1-hour tutorial with the module convenor, which they are expected to lead, to discuss issues they are uncertain about. This requires working together to plan the use of the hour in order to get the most from it. 

The structured written coursework presents some example data and poses a series of questions about this that students need to answer by analysis and critical thinking. This coursework is made available at the outset of the module when most students will not be able to answer (or potentially even understand) the questions posed. However, as students progress through the taught material, they will acquire and develop the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete the work. This helps to illustrate how much students have learnt during the module, so boosting resourcefulness, resilience and confidence: it challenges students in a supported manner that ultimately enables them to succeed. 

Sustainability: This module provides opportunity for scientific research to better define optimal nutrition to be considered in the context of sustainable nutrition and global food security; issues of sustainability will be highlighted and explored throughout the module. 


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Human Nutrition MSc(CORE) 2 Core Each unit of assessment must be passed at 50% 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 2025/6 academic year.