BSc Biomedical Sciences with Entrepreneurship

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Human Reproductive Biology (E)

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL31561
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this unit, students from a wide range of backgrounds explore how reproduction is controlled, influenced by medical and pharmacological intervention and affected by disease.


This integrative unit teaches students the basic science underpinning reproductive processes, including elements of endocrinology, cell and developmental biology, vascular biology and physiology. We aim to train them to link foundational knowledge to contemporary advances in reproductive biology as well as current developments and practice in reproductive and fetal medicine. In addition to basic mechanism, we offer students insight into disorders that affect a significant proportion of pregnancies, including miscarriage, preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction, and help them develop an understanding of how disease in late pregnancy is caused by earlier events and the consequences for mother and baby.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, students will have gained an overall understanding of human reproduction, its associated technologies and reproductive disorders. They will be able to describe:

  • The mechanisms of action of peptide and steroid hormones;
  • Gamete production in male and female, fertilisation, the pre-implantation embryo, implantation and placental function.
  • How this knowledge is put to use in assisted reproduction
  • How placental dysfunction can lead to major disorders of pregnancy and contemporary research developments aimed at addressing these. 
  • How imaging techniques can reveal embryonic and fetal growth;
  • How genetics has been exploited in mouse and human to probe aspects of reproductive physiology.
  • How events before and during pregnancy can influence health in later life

They will be able to integrate this knowledge into outputs that draw on a range of course topics and show an awareness of current advances.


  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
  • Steroids and their receptors.
  • Spermatogenesis, testicular stem cells and fertility in the male.
  • Ovarian and uterine function in the menstrual cycle.
  • Fertilisation and pre-implantation development
  • Assisted reproductive technologies
  • Implantation, placental development and fetal imaging
  • Vascular adaptations in pregnancy.
  • The major diseases of pregnancy: miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction.
  • Developmental programming: how events during embryonic and fetal life affect health in the adult.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course has a strong focus on integrative thinking, especially in relation to examination essay questions. Material from different parts of the course has to be understood in its own right, , then brought together to reach a level of understanding that allows links between topics to be perceived and understood, as for example in parallels between male and female gonadal function, or hormone action across the two reproductive tracts.
In the context of integrative thinking and developing expertise in the appropriate uses of outside information. Also in the use of diagrams and flow charts in examinations and presentations.
Oral communication
Students work in small groups to produce and deliver presentations. Students draft essay answers and formulate questions, based on their current understanding, to initiate face-to-face dialogue with tutors in lectures and workshops.
Background reading to consolidate lecture information into a coherent understanding of complex topics. Exploration of current findings is encouraged by means of directed reading including recommended primary literature and review papers.
Written communication
Students can formulate reasonable questions for email dialogue with tutors. Students provide written feedback to peers for the peer review element of the GBL assignment (see assessment below).
The unit provides students with an insight into the way basic science studies in reproduction have led to medical advances that have a profound impact on lifestyles and choices regarding family size and personal health. The raised awareness of the science-societal interface that students acquire is generalisable to other areas of science, medicine and health, and will be of value in many workplace settings.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 65%
Oral assessment/presentation 25%

1.5 hour written examination (65%); GBL assignment (presentation and peer review) (25%); Other, e-learning MAQ Assessment (10%)

Feedback methods

Group feedback is provided on the GBL presentation assessment. Feedback is provided throughout out the course via the course discussion board . On-line assessment (10%) supports in-session study of key terminology and concepts and generates mid-course feedback. During the course there are also face-to-face discussion sessions with tutors, centred around past exam questions. There is a post-exam clinic. 

Recommended reading

Compulsory, recommended, background and further reading are provided in the lectures. Lecturers make frequent references to other lectures to help students recognise links between topics and integrate the course content. To some extent outside reading depends on the background of the individual, and students are expected to fill in or revise topics upon which they are rusty. For example, some life sciences students may not have studied the menstrual cycle or steroid hormones since A level. Students should make sure that the necessary basic foundations are in place by cross-referencing between lectures, and only then extend their reading to encompass recent advances. Detailed guidance about reading is given on the course Blackboard site.


General sources:

  • Johnson M (2018) Essential Reproduction (8th edition) Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Jones RE and Lopez KH (2014) Human Reproductive Biology (4th edition) Academic Press (revision and refresher)
  • Heffner LJ and Schust DJ (2014) The Reproductive System at a Glance (4th Edn).Wiley-Blackwell.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
eAssessment 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 78.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sarah Finn-Sell Unit coordinator

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