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MSc Bioinformatics and Systems Biology / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:

Unit code BIOL60791
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


It introduces students to basic practical molecular sequence and structure analysis techniques, tools and resources (including molecular evolution and phylogeny), and provides an overview of transcriptomics and comparative genomics. Emphasis is given to the application of bioinformatics and computational analysis to problem solving in real research scenarios.

Learning outcomes

• Understand the complexity of biological systems & molecular functions

• Understand a range of bioinformatics & ‘omics analysis tools, resources & databases

• Understand proteomic, genomic & transcriptomic data-types

• Understand methods of genome sequencing

• Understand & apply methods of genome analysis

• Understand the fundamentals of molecular evolution and phylogeny and apply methods

• Understand pattern-recognition concepts underpinning commonly used analysis tools

• Understand the limitations of current databases & analysis tools

• Understand the importance of synthetic analysis & interpretation of resource outputs

• Gain hands-on experience of practical analysis of biological data

• Gain experience in communicating research findings in a short research ‘paper’.

Assessment methods

Sequence analysis: written report on practical assignment - 1,000 words in length - 25 % weighting Genomics/transcriptomics: written report on practical assignment - up to 1,500 words in length - 25% weighting Proteins: written report on practical assignment - up to 1,500 words in length - 25% weighting; Multiple-choice online quiz – this will be distinct from the formative assessment task, and take part in a classroom environment. – 25% weighting.

Feedback methods

At the end of the practical sessions, students complete a series of built-in MCQ tests that cover all aspects of the practical. The MCQs comprise 24 questions, covering a range of bioinformatics concepts across the entire course. For each MCQ, answers are computed and relayed to the student, with information to indicate how many correct answers were obtained and, if mistakes were made, what the errors were and why. If the scores at the end of a particular chapter are poor, students are recommended to re-visit the relevant sections of the practical, to make better use of the background information, to re-do the relevant practical steps, and ultimately to re-take the MCQ test.

In addition, guidance and advice is given throughout the practical work, and especially on how to write up the results (for which separate hand-outs are also provided). Feedback is provided during both group and individual discussions, during which opportunities are also given to receive feedback on draft reports.

Recommended reading

The following books are recommended (those with asterisks were written for this unit):

*Higgs, P. & Attwood, T.K. (2005) Bioinformatics & molecular evolution. Blackwell.

*Attwood, T.K. & Parry-Smith, D.J. (1999) Introduction to bioinformatics. Pearson Education.

Zvlebil, M. & Baum, J.O. (2007) Understanding Bioinformatics. Garland Science (Optional)


Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Talavera Unit coordinator

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