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Module FXX-3502:
Chemical Biology

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Martina Lahmann

Overall aims and purpose

The major aim of this module is to advance students' knowledge of biological chemistry, highlighting the cross-disciplinary nature of this area. Both, bioinorganic and bioorganic aspects will be discussed. A particular emphasis will be on the understanding of the role of biologically active compounds (e.g. enzymes and proteins, lectins, [complex] carbohydrates, and other biopolymers) in biological systems on molecular level, how to study and analyse such systems. Examples will be given to illustrate links to health and disease. This module is suitable for students with fundamental knowledge (approx GCSE level) of Chemistry and fundamental knowledge (approx GCSE) of Biology.

Course content

This course comprises two main topics and an introduction to some related chemical principles (beyond GSCE).

Glycobiology – This section will introduce the role of carbohydrates in biological systems. Starting from basic concepts and terminology specific for carbohydrate chemistry, the following areas will be illuminated: properties and structures of common polysaccharides (e.g. amylose, cellulose, chitin, chitosan, peptidoglycans, pectins, dextrans, glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans), chemical and enzymatic synthesis and degradation, complex carbohydrates (case studies: human and bacterial structures), glycoconjugates (case studies: glycoproteins, glycolipids), carbohydrates in medicine (case studies: lead structure, vaccine, inhibitor), carbohydrate recognition (case studies: lectins) in e.g. inflammatory processes (immune system), protein folding, blood group typing.

Bio-inorganic Chemistry - This series of lectures will focus on the chemistry of metal ions in biological systems, particularly on the design of enzyme active sites with regard to their main biological roles. Bulk metals (Na, K, Ca and Mg) will be introduced but the main focus will be on important trace metals (e.g. Fe, Zn and Cu), and key ligand types (O, N and S-based ligands). There will be some information on characterisation techniques which are applicable to enzyme active sites and special topics (e.g. metal uptake/transport and/or biomineralisation).

Course Team: Dr M Lahmann - (7 lectures, 1 Tutorial), Dr L Murphy - (7 lectures, 1 Tutorial)


  1. Oxford Chemistry Primer (46) Inorganic Chemistry in Biology: P C Wilkins, R E Wilkins, (OUP) reprint 2005
  2. Carbohydrate Chemistry, B. G. Davis and Antony J. Fairbanks, Oxford Chemistry Primers number 99 (2002)


Assessment Criteria


Threshold (40%). Knowledge and understanding of the content covered in the course is basic; Problems of a routine nature are generally adequately solved; Transferable skills are at a basic level.


Good (~60%). Knowledge base covers all essential aspects of subject matter dealt with in the programme and shows good evidence of enquiry beyond this. Conceptual understanding is good. Problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature are solved in a logical manner; solutions are generally correct and acceptable. Performance in transferable skills is sound and shows no significant deficiencies.


Excellent (>70%). Knowledge base is extensive and extends well beyond the work covered in the programme. Conceptual understanding is outstanding. Problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature are solved with efficiency and accuracy; problem-solving procedures are adjusted to the nature of the problem. Performance in transferable skills is generally very good.

Learning outcomes

  1. On successful completion of the module, the student will be able to: Understand some of the key roles in inorganic chemistry in biological systems.

  2. On successful completion of the module, the student: should be able to apply basic carbohydrate chemistry terminology.

  3. On successful completion of the module, the student: should be able to recognise and draw the chemical structure of common polysaccharides.

  4. On successful completion of the module, the student: should be able to discuss general principles of carbohydrate recognition and its role in biological systems (e.g. cell-cell communication).

  5. On successful completion of the module, the student: should demonstrate some fundamental knowledge about the role of carbohydrate recognition processes in health and disease.

  6. On successful completion of the module, the student: should be able to discuss the general properties of metalloproteins and the major classes of enzymes/proteins.

  7. On successful completion of the module, the student will be able to: Explain in brief fundamental relevant chemical, structural and physical properties of specific metalloproteins used to illustrate principles.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Glycobiology Assignment

This is an online exam (not timed) covering the learning outcomes for the glycobiology section.

CLASS TEST Metalloproteins Class Test 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Tutorial 1
Private study 83
Lecture 16

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy

Subject specific skills

  • CC4 The ability to recognise and analyse problems and plan strategies for their solution
  • CC6 Skills in communicating scientific material and arguments
  • PS2 Skills in the employment of common conventions and standards in scientific writing, data presentation, and referencing literature
  • PS3 Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information
  • PS14 Independent learning skills required for continuing professional development
  • SK2 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of fundamental physicochemical principles with the ability to apply that knowledge to the solution of theoretical and practical problems
  • SK3 Gain knowledge of a range of inorganic and organic materials
  • SK6 Develop an awareness of issues within chemistry that overlap with other related subjects
  • SK9 Read and engage with scientific literature
  • SK11. Reading and engaging with scientific literature.
  • SK18. Advanced studies in areas of specialism, such as the use ofpeer-reviewed scientific literature.
  • CC1 the ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts,concepts,principles and theories relating to theSubject areasCovered in theirProgramme
  • CC2 the ability to applysuch knowledge and understanding to thesolution of qualitative and quantitativeProblems that are mostly of a familiar nature
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: