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Module BSX-2019:
Principles of Life 2

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Anil Shirsat

Overall aims and purpose

This second year module consists of a series of lectures and associated practicals. Students successfully completing this module should have developed a conceptual understanding of several aspects of Molecular Biology. Subjects covered include DNA, genome organisation, RNA, proteins, genome editing, the use of reporter genes to study gene expression etc.The associated practicals build on the first year practicals and introduce students to standard techniques used in molecular biology research laboratories.

Course content

The lectures build on the 1st year "Principles of Life 1" module. Subjects covered include the organisation of the eucaryotic genome, DNA fingerprinting, human genetic defects, genome editing, cDNA library construction, the use of reporter genes etc.

The molecular biology practicals are designed to give experience in applied molecular methodologies covering a range of key technologies including the isolation of human DNA from cheek cells, restriction enzyme digestion of DNA, agarose gel electrophoresis, the polymerase chain reaction, the analysis of genetically modified plants etc

Assessment Criteria


A good student should have a thorough factual knowledge across all aspects of Molecular Biology. The student should demonstrate an ability to think critically about the subject.


An excellent student should fulfil all the criteria for a good student and also demonstrate the ability to understand and integrate information acquired from other sources (e.g. literature or online resources)


A threshold student should have a basic knowledge of the essential facts and key concepts of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. The student should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the links between DNA, RNA and Proteins. A knowledge of the types of molecules that comprise life as well as how they are formed, what they do in the organism and how many can be exploited commercially.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and conceptual understanding of how the genome is organised.

  2. Demonstrate knowledge of the key biological functions of DNA, RNA and proteins

  3. Demonstrate knowledge in the use of a variety of genetic tools.

  4. Demonstrate competence in performing common molecular biological techniques (pipetting, dilution, setting up enzymatic reactions, polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, data recording and analysis).

  5. Demonstrate appropriate numerical and report writing skills.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM End Module Exam 50
REPORT SNP analysis of human DNA 25
REPORT Plant Molecular Biology Practical 25

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Practical classes and workshops

Practicals in Molecular Biology, illustrating concepts taught in the lectures, form part of this module. There will be 1.5 days of practicals linked with Dr. Shirsat's lectures, and 2 half days of practicals delivered by Dr. Papadopulos,


The core of the module consists of ~12 lectures, approximately 4 lectures per week.

Private study

Self study: preparing and revising lectures, preparing and revising practicals, writing practical reports; preparing and revising for the exams.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: