BSc Biochemistry with a Modern Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Molecular Biology

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL10221
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Molecular Biology introduces you to the structure and function of molecules, including DNA and RNA, which allow genes to be expressed and be maintained from one generation to the next. You will also learn about genetic engineering, its application, and the ethical issues associated with its use.


To provide a general introduction to the molecular basis of genetics, how genes are maintained from one generation to the next and how their expression is regulated in various systems.

Learning outcomes

Students will understand the basis of genome maintenance and gene expression, and appreciate the concept of mutation at the level of the genotype and how this manifests at the phenotypic level. The major concepts and principles underlying recombinant DNA technology will be understood, along with major applications and associated issues relating to the public understanding of science.


Part I - Structure, Function and Replication of DNA

  • DNA as the heritable material
  • Structure of DNA
  • DNA replication: semi-conservative replication, DNA polymerases, events at the replication form, replication of the lagging strand, telomeres, consequences of defects in telomerase.
  • Replication of genomes: origins of replication, control of DNA replication.
  • Structure of chromosomes: DNA packaging, features of metaphase chromosomes.


Part II - Gene expression

  • From DNA to RNA: the structure and function of the gene, promoters and terminators. Transcriptional initiation, elongation and termination, RNA polymerases
  • Structure, function and Biochemical properties of RNA
  • From RNA to Protein: the genetic code, codons & anticodons, the ribosome & translation
  • Gene expression in Prokaryotes: the Lac operon
  • Gene expression in Eukaryotes: regulation of transcription, promoters, enhancer elements; RNA spl


Part III - Molecular basis of mutation

  • Consequences of mutation: genotype versus phenotype, molecular basis of dominant and recessive alleles, somatic versus germline mutations
  • Gene mutations: missense versus nonsense mutations, insertions, deletions and frameshifts. Genetic reversion and suppression
  • Chromosomal mutations: changes in chromosome number or structure. Consequences for fertility
  • Occurrence of mutations: spontaneous mutations and effects of environmental factors


Part IV - Recombinant DNA Technology

  • Principles of Genetic Engineering: gene cloning and genomics

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Some areas of the online assessment and exam questions require analytical skills.
Problem solving
Some areas of the online assessment and exam questions require problem solving skills.
Students must complete eLearning assessments based on lecture material and supplementary lecture-related material. Research and reading is required to complete these. There is a voluntary competition where students must identify, and describe unknown molecular structures.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 90%

Examination (90%) and an eLearning exercise (10%).

Feedback methods

An eLearning component of the unit assessment allows students to monitor their own progress since this incorporates a formative assessment element. An additional formative eLearning exercise will allow students to practice MCQs based on various parts of the lecture unit. A formative online peer-authored MCQ exercise "Peerwise" will run for the course of the unit. An online discussion forum is available for communication between students and staff. An online interactive feedback and revision surgery is operated.

Recommended reading

  • Alberts B et al. (2019) Essential Cell Biology 5th Edition. Norton
  • Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K & Walter P (2015) Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th edition). Garland Science
  • Brown, T (2012) Introduction to Genetics: A Molecular Approach. Garland Science

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 77

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Boam Unit coordinator

Return to course details