MSci Medical Biochemistry

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Molecular Medicine RSM

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL20962
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 the techniques used to analyse the sensitivity of patient isolated cancer cell lines. Through basic biochemistry, molecular and omics research techniques you will develop an understand of the cellular signalling changes that can result in resistance to targeted therapies. The course culminates in you selecting and experimentally assessing the effectiveness of a new combination therapy. You will gain experience in western blotting, mutation sequencing, cell biology and phospho-proteomics.


This unit is available to Medical Biochemistry students.


To introduce students to the experimental pathways that can lead to personalised medicine decisions.

Learning outcomes

The students will have learned to:

  • Analyse and run mutation specific PCR and DNA digestion techniques
  • Determine drug sensitivity in terms of cell-cycle or apoptosis
  • Analyse the phosphor-protein signalling changes within cell lysates
  • Carry out simple cell survival assays
  • Process and analysis enrichment driven MASS spec approaches
  • Present and critically analyse research data
  • Use online tools to aid data heavy approaches to aid clinical decision making
  • Drug cancer cell lines to perform simple sensitivity experiments


Students will learn the following techniques:

  • PCR sequencing
  • Data analysis and simple bioinformatic analysis of “omics”
  • Principles of peptide enrichment in MASS spectrometry
  • Simple cell biology
  • FACs preparation
  • Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis
  • Western blotting
  • Cell cycle and survival analysis
  • Report writing in the style of a research paper

Multiple types of data will be produced during the course of the RSM that will be recorded, quantified and analysed.

Teaching and learning methods

Assessment will comprise of:

Written assignments:

1) A literature review of the relevant signalling research. 20%

2) Production of a processed and quantified western blot complete with legend and explanation 15%

3) Omics data analysis 15%


Written Lab Report (50%): an experimental write-up containing an Abstract, Results, Discussion and References of 4 pages in length (excluding references, tables, figures, graphs) to present and analyse the data obtained during the practical. 


RSM. Attendance guidelines. Students are expected to attend all scheduled RSM sessions on time (N.B. Health and safety information will be delivered at the start of practical sessions, and students who are not present at the start may be asked to leave the lab). Students who arrive late will be marked as absent for that session. Failure to attend a session (an unauthorised absence) will result in a 10% (i.e. 10 mark) penalty being applied to the overall RSM mark (i.e. a student obtaining a mark of 65% overall will instead receive a mark of 55%). Furthermore, any students who miss a practical session will not receive a mark for any associated post-lab assessment (N.B. this mark will be removed before calculating the average post-lab mark to avoid a student being penalised twice). Further absences will result in further penalties (i.e. 2 absences = a penalty of 20% (as described above)).

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Molecular graphical analysis of DNA sequencing, Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, Western blotting, simple tissue culture skills, setting up survival and cell cycle assays, phospho-peptide enrich and Mass spectrometry.
Group/team working
Students work together in groups of 2-3 to carry out their experiments.
One group member usually takes the lead in organising the group to carry out experiments.
Project management
Students must decide on particular experiments to try and then organise themselves to carry out the experiments in the allotted time.
Oral communication
Students are asked questions during the practical. Students must also communicate the results of their experiments to the Academic Staff.
Problem solving
The nature of this RSM is to solve the question of why one of the cell lines has acquired resistance and discovering how you can overcome this.
This course evolves from the unknown analysis two cell lines derived from patients on treatment. So is highly investigative in its design.
Written communication
Students are required to keep notes on their experiments. Students must also write up their results in the style of a research paper.
Data Analysis: You will use online tools to analysis cell signalling and cellular responses, analysing the “omics” data generated for phosphor-proteomics.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Report 50%

Feedback methods

Students will receive continuous feedback on their laboratory work during the Unit by the teaching staff and demonstrators. A discussion forum is also available through Blackboard to answer questions and receive feedback from the teaching staff. Detailed feedback on the assignments and lab report will be provided via Blackboard. Students are also encouraged to meet with the Coordinator following completion of the Unit to discuss the assessed work.

Recommended reading

All compulsory recommended reading will be made available through Blackboard and an online manual will be available to students on iPads in the lab which contains background and full description of the practical work.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Practical classes & workshops 72
Independent study hours
Independent study 26

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Smith Unit coordinator

Return to course details