Module code: VMS1003

Module Overview

Understanding the molecular aspects of living cells is of vital importance for many other aspects of the veterinary curriculum. This module will combine lecture-based learning with scientific laboratory practical sessions. Initial laboratory skills will be acquired and techniques carried out will be relevant across various disciplines, especially physiology and histology and pathology. The basic concepts of biochemistry and physiology will be introduced. Understanding these concepts and their application acts as a foundation for the rest of the course, contextualizing various pathologies and providing an understanding of how to approach and treat them, enabling veterinary surgeons to practice effectively in the service of animal health and welfare.


Module provider

School of Veterinary Medicine

Module Leader

WILKINSON William (Vet Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

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

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 3

Independent Learning Hours: 53

Lecture Hours: 34

Seminar Hours: 4

Practical/Performance Hours: 12

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 34

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content


This module is designed to introduce students to the normal structure and function of the cell within a multicellular organism. Indicative content includes:

  • Genetics including inheritance, Mendelian principles, genes and breeding, mitosis and meiosis

  • DNA replication, recombination, mutations, repair and controls

  • Transcription, translation, mRNA, modifications and control of gene expression

  • Cell cycle, cell death and stem cells

  • Biochemistry of the cell including lipids, proteins and carbohydrates

  • Homeostasis

  • Cellular metabolism

  • Cellular structure, organelles and their function

  • Cellular signalling- local and distant, receptors and ligands

  • Laboratory techniques such as those necessary for microscopy, cytology, histology and DNA sequencing.

An example of how these topics may be linked is indicated in the table below:


Practical session

Pro/eukaryotic cell structure and biochemistry of lipids

Visualising the cell – light microscopy, electron-microscopy

Plasma membrane structure and transport

Mitochondria and energy biochemistry and carbohydrates

Electron transport chains and proton pumps

Intracellular vesicular transport

Cytoskeleton and molecular motors

Histological tissue staining – cells in context –

Cell communication - Receptors

Receptors and Signalling Pathways 1 (Cell communication – cellular events controlled by signalling pathways, local versus distant control, cell surface or intracellular receptors, cytokines and their structure

Receptors and Signalling Pathways 2: The most important receptor types and function: ligate-gated ion channels, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and nuclear receptors

Cytology preparations using and seeing staining techniques

Receptors and Signalling Pathways 3: Endocrine receptors and function of hormones and their structure

Cell cycle

Cell death

Stem cells

Genes and Inheritance, Mendelian principles

DNA, RNA extraction

Genes and Breeding for specific traits

Mitosis, Meiosis

Nucleus - Chromosomes

Nucleosomes, Chromatin, Genes, DNA and their biochemistry

DNA replication

PCR and agarose gels

DNA Replication controls, recombination and repair

Transcriptional control / gene expression


Posttranscriptional modification, mRNA

Translation - mRNA

Biochemistry of Protein synthesis, structure and folding

Enzymes + Hormones

Cellular mechanisms of deviance: oncogenes and cancer, protein mis-folding and oxidative stress

Mutations, polymorphisms, genetic maps and SNPs, sequencing and phylogeny


Physiological concepts – homeostasis, buffering systems, Henderson Hasselbalch equation, osmotic pressures etc.



Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Group Poster Assignment 20
Examination PC Lab (Closed Book) MCQ and SAQ Exam Fixed Start Time (2 Hours) 80

Alternative Assessment

Resits for the poster assignment will involve a written report in related subject area to be determined by the module coordinator.

Assessment Strategy

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

  • Their understanding of cell structure and function as well as basic genetic (to be assessed within the written examination and poster)

  • Development of literature searching, critical thinking, presenting and writing skills in the area of applied genetics (to be assessed within the poster)

  • An understanding of microscope use and cell structure and the role of the microscope in diagnosis in veterinary practice (to be assessed within the written examination)

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Group poster assignment – 20 %

  • Examination – MCQ & Short answer questions - 80% (2 hours)

(Exam Units are onsite closed-booked invigilated fixed-time assessments. They are delivered through SurreyLearn using campus PC Labs)

Formative assessment and feedback

  • Formative assessment will take place during the practical sessions. The students will be able to develop their feedback literacy skills through self-feedback that will help them to prepare for the written examination.

  • Students will be given feedback from the group assignment and will further develop their feedback literacy through their provision of feedback on other members of their group.

Module aims

  • Provide an understanding of cells and how they work
  • Provide an understanding of the genetic factors in animal breeding
  • Provide students with a basic knowledge of physiological principles
  • Develop an appreciation for physiological feedback, control and regulatory mechanisms 
  • Develop basic laboratory and research skills

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Apply basic scientific knowledge of cell biology and genetics in the context of the animal body KPT RCVS KU 1, RCVS KU 2
002 Combine topical scientific knowledge in genetics with clinical implications such as animal breeding for certain phenotype characteristics KPT RCVS KU 1, RCVS KU 2
003 Apply physiological principles to understand homeostasis KPT RCVS KU 1, KU 3
004 Gain basic scientific laboratory skills PT RCVS KU 2

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:

  • Develop the practical laboratory skills needed for progression in the Structure and Function modules

  • Provide the students some insight into use of online learning resources

  • Develop students’ underlying knowledge of cellular function to be able progress through the BVMSci degree and build on their knowledge.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures

  • Flipped classroom for case based discussion

  • Small group discussion/collaborative working

  • Practical laboratory sessions including microscopy, cytology, histology, PCR and DNA gels

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: VMS1003

Other information

The Surrey Framework consists of the attributes:

  • Employability
  • Global and cultural capabilities
  • Digital capabilities
  • Sustainability
  • Resourcefulness and resilience.

This modules includes the following key topics which further develop one or more of the attributes as indicated:

  • Group based sessions including group coursework, on topics such as genetics and cell signalling, develop students’ digital skills and team working as they use their resourcefulness to complete tasks. This will see them formulating goals, delegating tasks, searching databases and assimilating relevant information to collate in a shared output that allows them to successfully communicate their findings.
  • Laboratory sessions provide students with the foundation for laboratory skills they will need in their clinical careers or could be useful should they decide to pursue research, thus widening career options and improving employability.
  • Assessments allow for the organization to know students are successfully learning content to an appropriate level for the vocational qualification they are working towards employability. Concurrently, many students find assessments can be stressful and challenging; learning to cope, adapt and overcome these challenges develops resilience.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Veterinary Medicine and Science BVMSci (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% 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 2025/6 academic year.