BSc Microbiology / Course details

Year of entry: 2019

Course unit details:
Chemistry of Biomolecules

Unit code BIOL21162
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Faculty of Life Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Chemistry of Biomolecules focuses on the chemistry underpinning the biological roles of proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic and lipids. You will learn about the link between structure and function of these molecules at a chemical level within a biological context. Overview lectures will bring together this knowledge and apply it to key chemical process relevant to life: respiration, photosynthesis and signalling.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introductory Chemistry BIOL10111 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Chemistry for Bioscientists 1 CHEM10021 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Chemistry for Bioscientists 2 CHEM10022 Pre-Requisite Recommended

Any level 1 chemistry course, such as those listed, is strongly recommended


To provide information about biochemically important aspects of the chemistry of proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and lipids, using appropriate examples. This includes organic, inorganic and physical chemistry aspects of biomolecules. Key emphasis is placed on understanding the structural principles that govern reactivity/physical properties of molecules as opposed to learning structural detail. The emphasis is on knowledge at the atomic level.

Learning outcomes

Students should:

  • Have knowledge of the structure/conformational freedom of biomolecules, e.g. proteins, DNA/RNA, carbohydrates and key metabolites/co-factors, e.g., be able to draw and recognize key structures such as the 20 amino acids, 5 nucleotides and major metabolites
  • Understand and demonstrate how the structure of biomolecules determines their chemical properties and reactivity
  • Draw molecules and reaction mechanisms, understand and propose site-directed mutagenesis experiments aimed at elucidating mechanism
  • Understand biochemistry at the atomic level.


  • 3 lectures + 1 workshop on basic chemistry, required to appreciate and understand biochemistry, focussed entirely on biologically relevant atom species (C, N, H, O, S, P, various metals) and their properties. Bonding, reaction mechanism and structure/function relationships are discussed.
  • 8 lectures + 1 workshop on organic chemistry of biomolecules: ranging from amino acids, lipids, enzyme cofactors, oligonucleotides to oligosaccharides. Each are introduced in detail from a structure/function perspective with appropriate examples presented to illustrate their role in biochemistry
  • 6 lectures on inorganic chemistry: i.e. metals in biology, focussing on both redox and not-redox roles of metals in biochemistry, as well as on metal specific experimental techniques relevant to biochemistry
  • 1 overview lecture, studying a key chemical process relevant to life: photosynthesis. This lecture will aim to bring together material seen in previous lectures and explore the chemical basis underpinning this process. It will also provide a preview on how material will be presented in the 3 year chemistry course (BIOL31812)
  • An exam workshop will be organised at the end of the lectures series.

eLearning Activity

A marked assessment (15%) will be conducted on material presented in the first 3 lectures. This will be held early on in the lecture series, to allow revision of the basic chemical knowledge, allowing students to follow the more advanced concepts introduced in the remaining lectures.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course introduces people to chemical reasoning and thinking, encouraging application of chemical rules and logic to problems.
Problem solving
The course introduces people to chemical reasoning and thinking, encouraging application of chemical rules and logic to problems.
The course introduces people to chemical reasoning and thinking, encouraging application of chemical rules and logic to problems.

Assessment methods

2 hour written examination (85%) and one online module (15%).

Feedback methods

Students will be invited to test their knowledge via blackboard multiple choice tests. These will span the various main topics: basic chemistry; organic chemistry; metals in biology; physical chemistry; overview lectures. In each case, the test assessment will be available immediately after the last lecture of that topic. Immediate feedback is given when answers are incorrect. Assessments remain open during the lecture course and students can retake them as many times as they want.

Recommended reading

The listed text is recommended or earlier editions.

Recommended Reading

  1. Voet & Voet, Biochemistry (4th edition), Wiley, 2011, Recommended

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Leys Unit coordinator

Return to course details