MSci Biochemistry / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Cellular Biochemistry RSM

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL20322
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This Research Skills Module is designed to develop your experimental design, report writing and practical skills. You will be introduced to biochemical and cell biological research techniques in a laboratory based project. You will use techniques such as SDS-PAGE, immunoblotting, enzyme modification of protein glycosylation, immunofluorescence microscopy, cell culture and transient transfection of green fluorescent protein chimeras. You will gain experience in bioinformatic analysis of protein sequences.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Cell Membrane Structure & Function BIOL21141 Co-Requisite Compulsory
The Dynamic Cell BIOL21121 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL20322 Co-requisite is BIOL21121 or BIOL21141

This unit is compulsory for all Cell Biology Honours students and may be selected by Biology, Biochemistry, Medical Biochemistry or Biomedical Sciences students.


To introduce students to the theory and practice of a selection of commonly-used biochemical and cell biological research techniques

  • To provide training in experimental design, execution and critical interpretation of data
  • To enhance knowledge of cellular and protein structure and function
  • To develop practical skills and team working ability

Learning outcomes

Students will develop a wide range of experimental skills, including: SDS-PAGE; immuoblotting; enzyme-based modification of protein glycosylation; cell transfection; immunofluorescence labelling; fluorescence microscopy and image acquisition. They will become familiar with using bioinformatic approaches to analyse protein sequences. They will develop skills in careful experimental manipulation, design, and organisation. They will gain confidence in recording and interpreting results, and in critical evaluation. Students will work independently and in small groups, aiding development of individual practical skills and team-working abilities. They will be expected to compare their results with published data and to question conclusions or account for discrepancies. Scope for the design of novel experiments will be provided. Students will be expected to learn detailed concepts related to central aspects of cell and protein function, and to be able to identify cellular structures.


Protein localisation using green fluorescent protein chimeras: Students will be provided with cDNA constructs encoding a variety of proteins that have been tagged with green fluorescent protein, and will express these by transient transfection of tissue culture cells. The aim will be to determine the localisation of the chimeric molecule with reference to antibodies to a range of subcellular organelles and cytoskeletal structures. Students will design their own experiment to provide further evidence of localisation, for example by disrupting the structure by drug treatment. Techniques include transient transfection, and the use of antibodies and green fluorescent protein in fluorescence microscopy.

Analysis of a model protein and its disease-associated mutants: Students will be provided with the gene sequence that encodes a protein (CBRSM1) known to be N-glycosylated and localised to the plasma-membrane in epithelial cells. The gene is associated with a disease called ‘RSMopathy’ and details of patient mutations will be provided. Working as a team, students will perform bioinformatic analysis of the protein to predict the possible effects of the disease-linked mutations. Students will analyse extracts from cell lines expressing wild-type and mutant CBRSM1 protein to assess expression level and glycosylation status using SDS-PAGE and western blotting. Findings will be interpreted in combination with immunofluorescence microscopy data from the same cell lines.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
These are core skills developed throughout the practical. Students will learn to analyse several different types of data, and are encouraged to think critically about their own results. Performing control experiments, and understanding why they are important for data analysis, is a key component of the practical.
Oral communication
Students are encouraged to answer questions during practicals, and to contribute to the final wrap-up sessions where they can describe their experimental results.
Problem solving
Students will have problems to solve throughout the practical, and will gain hands-on experience when they carry out their own individual experiments
Students learn research skills, and apply them to specific problems. They have the opportunity to design and carry out their own experiment. They are expected to read research papers to facilitate their interpretation of data and to plan their own experiment.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written assignment (inc essay) 80%

Written assignments (inc essay)    80%
Set exercise    20%
Set exercise 1 - Online coursework assessment. Completion of an eLearning exercise to test students’ ability to identify cellular structures following week 1 of the practical (5% of marks). 
Set exercise 2 - Online coursework assesment. Completion of an eLearning exercise test students’ ability to design and plan experiments following week 2 of the practical (15% of marks)

Written assignments (80% in total). 
Written assignment 1. This will include a description of the design, methodology and results of the experiment and bioinformatic analysis completed in week 4. The format of the assessment is to be confirmed (30% of marks). 
Written assignment 2. Completion of a 5-page write-up based on the experiments completed in week 3 (50% of marks).

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided informally by staff and demonstrators throughout the practical. Formative assessment of the students’ ability to formulate a hypothesis, and design an experiment that will test the hypothesis, will be achieved via completion of worksheets in weeks 2 and 3. Individual feedback on these will given during week 2 and 3 respectively. Group discussions at several points during the RSM will provide a forum for discussing experiments and results obtained.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 72
Independent study hours
Independent study 28

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Allan Unit coordinator

Additional notes

The co-requistes noted are an EITHER OR condition, and students can register for either BIOL21121 The Dynamic Cell OR BIOL21141 Cell Membrane Structure & Function 

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