module specification

BE5060 - Molecular Biology (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Molecular Biology
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 150
111 hours Guided independent study
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Practical report (1500 words)
In-Course Test 50%   Quizzes
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Friday Morning

Module summary

This module will enable students to extend their understanding of the principles of molecular biology in eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms, with emphasis on understanding mechanisms of gene expression, genome structure, variation and replication, and genetic inheritance and genetic causes of disease. The aims of this module are aligned with the qualification descriptors within the Quality Assurance Agency’s, Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

The module integrates the knowledge and skills acquired from other modules and encourages independent learning through the access of information using appropriate laboratory, primary and secondary sources, and informatics resources. It develops competence in laboratory skills through practical work, and in scientific writing. It aims to develop students’ qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment including developing ability to solve problems and gather and interpret data to inform a focussed theme and writing reports.  Moreover students have an opportunity to develop self-management employability skills by engaging fully with the learning material and opportunities made available to them, and by continually reflecting on their progress through the module using the regular feedback opportunities available to them.


The module starts with a review of gene and genome structure and organisation in eukaryotes (nuclear and mitochondrial genomes) and prokaryotes. This provides a foundation for studying the mechanisms by which gene expression is controlled through the process of gene transcription.  The simpler process of prokaryotic transcription is described first, including a consideration of the operon organisation of genes commonly found in prokaryotes. Generic features of the control of eukaryotic transcription are described and illustrated with examples.  (1-3)

Expression of the primary transcription RNA product is described briefly for prokaryotes.  Eukaryotic RNA processing, including capping, splicing, polyadenylation and nuclear export, is described together with a consideration of alternative splicing. The gene expression pathway is completed with a brief study of translation and of the post-translational modifications that proteins can undergo in order to fulfil their biological role.  Emerging areas of genome transcription will be reviewed, including miRNAs and other non-coding RNAs. (1-2)

The process of genome replication in prokaryotes and eukaryotes will be described, including the enzymes involved.  DNA damage and repair will be discussed and linked to other mechanisms cells employ to ensure RNA and proteins are also made correctly, together forming an overview of cellular quality control systems. The latter part of the module focuses on human genomes, starting with an overview of genome variation between and within individuals, comparing inherited and somatic variations. The continuing advances in techniques of genome analysis will be reviewed (1-2)

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Acquisition of knowledge of the subject matter of this module will be promoted through lecturer-led lectures, associated small-group tutorials and a semester review. These will be supplemented with the guided use of web-based student-centred learning resources, including web-based directed study and review. Each lecture has an associated tutorial class and web-based review in the form of an MCQ test (formative assessment). Links to selected web resources are also provided within individual sessions. Practical classes will be used to develop laboratory skills and to consolidate knowledge in applied aspects of gene expression. The remaining time is self-managed for private study.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Display an understanding of genome structure, expression and replication in eukaryotes and prokaryotes;
2. Demonstrate an appreciation of the inheritance, analysis and implications of genetic variation in the human genome;
3. Procure or generate, assess and interpret data obtained from a variety of resources including laboratory work, primary and secondary literature and relevant databases, to develop report writing as an employability skill (Communication and Literacy).

Assessment strategy

Assessment is designed to promote deep learning through regular formative and summative assessment with quizzes throughout the module .The highest marks from two 15 minute quizzes out of four taken across the module, will be included in the Quizzes component of the module mark. There is a practical report coursework component. Criteria for assessment will include an understanding of the subject matter; an ability to explain, describe and discuss the work; completeness and conciseness of written reports and essays with emphasis upon critical ability and scientific rigour.
To pass the module, students need to achieve a minimum aggregate mark of 40%.  There will be an attendance requirement for the practical sessions. If the module is passed on reassessment, then the maximum mark awarded will be 40%.