The MSc will consist of eight taught modules and a laboratory-based project. Students will attend two full days of lectures per week prior to starting their research project, with the remaining time available for associated work. The research project is carried out on a full-time basis in semester two.
Successful completion of the course will necessitate accumulation of 180 credits, 120 of which will derive from the taught modules and 60 from the research project.
Introduction to Molecular Biology Research (22 hours, 20 credits)
This course is a 20-credit module and is taught in semester one. A combination of practical sessions and lectures will be used to teach fundamental principles of genetics, basic statistical methods and aspects of planning research. The practical techniques will cover techniques such as polymerase chain reaction, DNA sequencing and methods for mutation detection and genotyping:
- Critical analysis of scientific papers
- Laboratory mathematics
- How to plan, document and write up research
- The polymerase chain reaction
- Principles of genetics
- Sequencing and capillary electrophoresis
- Sequence analysis
- Presentation skills and PowerPoint for posters
- Mutation detection and screening
- Methods for DNA cloning
Assessment for this module includes a critical analysis of a scientific paper (20%), write-up of the practical sessions (20%) and a multiple choice exam (60%).
Molecular Basis of Genetic Disorders (24 hours, 20 credits)
This course is taught as a 20-credit module in semester one. The module covers the molecular mechanisms for human diseases with a genetic component, including those which have a Mendelian pattern of inheritance and those with a complex mode of inheritance. The lectures will cover clinical features of selected diseases and their genetic basis. The seminars will provide experience in interpreting genetic tests in inherited disorders, and opportunities to discuss the concepts underlying the identification of predisposing genes in human disorders:
- Principles of Mendelian inheritance
- Seminar 1: Pedigree analysis
- Autosomal recessive disorders
- Seminar 2: Data interpretation (point mutations)
- X-linked recessive disorders
- Seminar 3: Data interpretation: Linkage analysis
- Autosomal dominant disorders
- Seminar 4: Data interpretation: large deletions; dynamic mutations
- Disorders with partial penetrance
- Seminar 5: Data interpretation: Thrombophilias; haemochromatosis
- Mitochondrial disorders
- Genetic imprinting
- Concepts of genetically complex diseases
- Seminar 6: Epidemiology - relative risk; heritability
- Genetics of diabetes: a paradigm for complex genetic disorders
- Seminar 7: Lessons from genetic studies of diabetes
- Complex disorders linked to the HLA region
- Seminar 8: Linkage analysis in the study of complex disorders
- Genetics of cancer
- Seminar 9: Genetic association studies
- Seminar 10: Linkage disequilibrium; GWAS
- Genetics of Alzheimer's disease
- Genetics of colorectal cancer
- Seminar 11: Alternative study designs + Module review
The assessment consists of a final exam, containing both multiple choice and short-answer written questions.
Gene Regulation in Mammalian Cells (13 hours, 10 credits)
This is a 10-credit module delivered in semester one which introduces the structure of eukaryotic genes and mechanisms of gene regulation. Topics include gene structure, chromatin remodelling, DNA/Protein and Protein/Protein interactions, and the role of gene regulation in disease:
- Structure of Eukaryotic genes
- Chromatin remodelling
- Regulation of mRNA abundance
- Small RNAs in biology and medicine
- DNA-protein and protein-protein interactions
- Research methods for studying gene regulation
- Research methods - Tutorial
- Gene Regulation and disease
This module is assessed by an essay of around 4000 words.
Statistics (18 hours, 10 credits)
This course is a 10-credit module held in semester one which will enable students to become familiar with basic statistical methods. The material will be taught in a series of computer-based practical sessions. By the end of the module students will be able to use the statistical software package SPSS to analyse data using appropriate statistical tests:
- Introduction to statistics
- Using statistical packages and entering data into SPSS
- Types of research study
- Descriptive comparison of groups
- Exploring data in SPSS
- Bias and confounding
- Introduction to hypothesis testing
- Comparing continuous data in SPSS
- Evaluating & summarising the evidence
- Comparing categorical data in SPSS
- Correlation and regression analysis
The module is assessed by an exam (50%) and a statistical report (50%). For the report, students are provided with a dataset to analyse using the methods covered in the module. In addition, students have to demonstrate that they are capable of designing and setting up a data file in SPSS which is submitted electronically.
Bioinformatics (15 hours, 10 credits)
Taught together with students from the MSc Immunology and Allergy, this 10-credit module is held in semester two. This module will enable students to obtain practical experience in using advanced bioinformatics software available for the analysis of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data:
- Introduction to bioinformatics
- Sequence interpretation, annotation and variation
- Investigating the transcriptome
- Protein structure and function prediction
- Proteome analysis and protein interaction networks
- Implications for Human Health
- IT sessions
The module is taught using a combination of lectures and practical sessions. Students are required to produce a poster for assessment which includes information gathered from online databases and analysis of a nucleic acid sequence. There is also an associated short report which documents the process taken to analyse the sequence and produce the poster.
Molecular Services in Health Care (12 hours, 10 credits)
This course is a 10-credit module taught in semester two. Topics include the following: setting up a molecular diagnostics laboratory, ethical issues and genetic counselling, cytogenetic techniques, prenatal diagnosis and diagnosis of microbial infections:
- The impact of molecular diagnosis
- Establishing a molecular diagnostics laboratory
- Genetic counselling sessions
- Pre-natal diagnosis
- Pre-implantation diagnosis
- Phenylketonuria and screening
- Familial hypercholesterolemia and screening
- Molecular diagnosis and cellular pathology
Assessment is via an essay of around 4000 words.
Microbial Genetics and Genomics (24 hours, 20 credits)
This 20-credit module is taught in semester two. It will provide an overview of genetic and genomic approaches to the study and diagnosis of bacterial and viral pathogens, including a global overview of the regulation of pathogenesis in Prokaryotes. The taught courses cover the following subjects:
- Introduction to basic microbiology
- The use of basic microbiological and molecular techniques to identify bacterial and viral pathogens
- An overview of the structure and organisation of bacterial genomes
- Quorum sensing
- The role of bacterial virulence factors in infection.
- The regulation of expression of Staphylococcus aureus virulence determinants
- PBL - Using genetic tools to diagnose MRSA
- The regulation of expression of bacterial virulence determinants
- An overview of the structure and organisation of viral genomes
- Introduction to the regulation of expression of viral virulence determinants
- The genetics of Human Immunodeficiency Virus 1 as an example of an RNA virus infection
- Genetics of Hepatitis B virus as an example of a DNA virus infection
- The role of host genetics in virus infections
- PBL - Isolation and genetic typing of viral infections
- A brief overview of some notable clinically relevant pathogens
- Artemis and Artemis Comparison tool
- PBL - Gene and protein sequence analysis
The module is composed of a combination of lectures delivered by experts covering the latest knowledge in their respective fields with additional problem-based learning (PBL) sessions giving students the opportunity to investigate and solve realistic situations.
Molecular Technologies (32 hours, 20 credits)
This 20-credit course is held in semester two, and will provide an extensive review of emerging molecular techniques used in research of human diseases. Topics include: real-time PCR, microarrays, methods for diagnosis of infectious diseases and mutation detection:
- Molecular Genetics and Disease
- Student session - Setting Assessment and Discussion
- Student session - Living with her genes
- Student session - The Hap Map Resource
- Student session - Copy Number Variation (CNV)
- Multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA)
- Student session - High Throughput Technologies
- Chips and Microarrays
- Student Session - Genome Wide Association Studies
- Deep Sequencing
- Proteomic aspects of disease
- Sequence analysis and mutation detection
- Genotype/Phenotype correlations
- Student session - Assessments
- New frontiers
The module is delivered using a combination of lectures with additional student-led sessions. For these sessions, students are provided with a question or topic which they have to research and present. Assessment is by multiple choice exam (60%) and a group project (40%).
Research Project (60 credits)
Students will carry out their own research projects during spring and summer, in areas and topics determined by members of academic staff. The experimental part of the projects is carried out within the laboratories where research is being performed by other MSc and PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and technicians which are always keen to provide help and support. The aim is for students to develop their practical and intellectual skills in scientific investigation, and gain experience of project and time management. Project reports will be written up in the style of an original research paper, giving the student further hands-on experiences in writing scientific publications.
Specifically the project will enable students to:
- Demonstrate ability to research, and apply to the practical investigation, relevant research literature from a variety of sources, in an area appropriate to the course.
- Design experiments to yield interpretable results, to analyse and interpret data obtained and, on this basis, choose appropriate lines of further investigation.
- Carry out and develop safe and effective research practice.
- Present and discuss the merits and weaknesses of the investigative approach, and identify future research avenues using both oral and written techniques.
Students will spend 400-750 hours in the laboratory for the duration of the project.
During this period, students and their supervisors are expected to meet informally on a regular basis to discuss progress and complete four formally documented meetings.
Preparation of the dissertation will normally take 100 hours across the duration of the module. Examples of some recent research projects include:
- Investigation of splicing mutations in bleeding disorders
- Investigation of F8 gene deletions in haemophilia A
- Molecular screening for oesophageal cancer
- Mapping functional elements in the SerpinA1 promoter
- Translational efficiency of SerpinA1 alternative transcripts
- Copy number variation (CNV) and Alzheimer's disease
- Haplotypes of the epidermal growth factor gene and intrauterine growth
- Multiplex FISH Analysis in leukaemia
- Examining quorum sensing gene expression using lux-based promoter fusions in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis
- Novel signalling molecules involved in global control of gene expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Identification and function of small regulatory RNAs in pathogenic Clostridia
Assessment of the project is as follows:
• Supervisor mark for practical skills (20%)
• Research presentation and questions (40%)
• Dissertation (40%)
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.