The Biosciences and Global Food Security
How can you use science to help improve global food security? This module introduces you to the issues of global food security and the complexity existing in different parts of our food generation system. Looking across the food supply chain, you’ll cover the evolution of crops, crop and animal production, and the food industry. Importantly, you’ll also look at sustainable nutrition because food security isn’t just about supply – it’s important that people are getting the right kind of food. You’ll learn about these issues through a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions. You’ll also develop professional skills to work safely in laboratory situations.
Biochemistry - The Building Blocks of Life
Have you ever wondered how some crops can resist diseases? This module provides you with the fundamentals for understanding biochemical processes in living organisms. You’ll be introduced to the basic structure, properties and functions of the four key biological macromolecules: nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. You’ll also look at the metabolic pathways occurring in cells, such as respiration, photosynthesis and the biosynthetic pathways for the key macromolecules. In addition to lectures, you’ll have practical laboratory sessions to learn how to use key biochemical techniques for the separation and analysis of macromolecules and measurement of the metabolic process.
Genes and Cells 1
The basic functional units of life are cells. In this module you’ll learn about the growth and development of cells, focusing on mitosis, meiosis, cell division and differentiation. You’ll get to explore the ultrastructure – the structure of a cell too small to be seen with an ordinary microscope – of animal, plant and bacterial cells and even viruses. Once you have this foundation understanding, the second part of the module covers fundamental genetic principles and you’ll be able to answer the questions: What are the Mendelian laws of inheritance? How are genes expressed? You’ll have lectures from current researchers in the field and the opportunity to apply your learning in the laboratory and in workshops.
Animals – both pets and livestock – play a big part in our lives. In this module, you’ll be introduced to animal ecology and evolution and examine the basis of animal interactions with humans. You’ll then look at domestication and how animal production systems have been developed. Using practical laboratory sessions and lectures, you’ll learn more about animal biology and explore the way in which animal product quality can be manipulated.
Genes and Cells 2
In a series of lectures, workshops and practicals you’ll further develop your understanding of gene structure, function and regulation and investigate how this knowledge can be applied in recombinant DNA technology through DNA sequencing and genetic engineering.
Academic Development and Employability
In this module you will develop the academic and professional skills you need for your further studies and future career. Through small group work within tutor groups, you’ll become well-equipped in areas such as essay-writing, presentational skills (oral and written), critical interpretation of published materials, and other universal skills that will benefit you throughout your degree and into the future.
A solid understanding of mathematics, physics and chemistry is essential for a scientist. This module will provide you with the foundation knowledge of mathematics and statistics, physics and chemistry needed for your future studies. It compensates for potential gaps in understanding resulting from different prior education. The mathematics and statistics element includes powers and logs, differentiation, significance and regression. The physics element includes energy and heat, light and the electromagnetic spectrum, attenuation/absorption, and radioactivity. The chemistry element includes elements and periodic table; atomic structure and bonding; intermolecular attractions, chemical equilibrium; acids and bases, oxidation and reduction; rates of reaction; and basic organic chemistry, isomerism, and rings. You’ll have lectures from experts in these fields and use computer-aided learning practicals to apply what you’ve learnt.
Through four hours of lectures each week, you’ll be given basic knowledge of bacterial cell structures and growth and reveal the mechanisms that allow bacteria to respond to their environment. You’ll also be taught how to handle data commonly used in microbiological experimentation and be given training in the basic practical methods required for all microbiological laboratory work through a three hour practical each week.
Through a weekly three hour lecture, you’ll be introduced to the conventional uses of plants and describe some of the problems associated with plant production including biotic and abiotic stresses. You’ll then discuss the techniques used to study plant science, including genetics and the use of mutants before being familiarised to the applications of biotechnology in plant science.
Optional modules include:
Microbes and You
Through this module, you will be given perspective on how microbes interact with humans, animals, plants and other organisms; how they influence environmental processes, and how microbial products contribute to healthcare, food production, and manufacturing. It will address the influence of technological developments, and scientific understanding of microbes and the public perception of them. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures and tutorials studying for this module.
This module introduces and explains the major physiological systems which are essential for life: the central nervous system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the renal system and the digestive system. You’ll understand the structures and functions of the major organs and the functions of individual cell types. The module will cover animal functions including their reactions to the internal and external environments, reproduction and development. You’ll have weekly lectures and one practical class.
Molecular Biology and the Dynamic Cell
This module offers a detailed study of the core molecular processes that enable cells to function such as DNA biochemistry, gene expression, protein synthesis and degradation. You will learn about the basic molecular processes that underpin the function of eukaryotic cells and to describe how different organelles within the cell function, with an emphasis on the dynamic nature of cell biology. You will have lectures, practical classes a poster presentation and tutorials.
Molecular Pharming and Biotechnology
The creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is having a major impact on modern agriculture. Transgenic research and “synthetic biology” approaches have the potential to enable plants to be used as “green factories” for the production of novel products. Through this module, you’ll gain both theoretical and practical knowledge as to how transgenic organisms are engineered. You’ll also learn about the production of traditional plant products and their uses in biotechnological industries, and the use of marker assisted breeding techniques. You’ll have lectures and practical laboratory sessions to really get into the analysis of the applications of these technologies, but you’ll also get to look out into industry and broader. There will be industrial field trips to see what you’ve learnt in practice and experts in the field will be invited to lecture and give some thought-provoking debate about the ethical, commercial and environmental concerns around GMO technology.
Principles of Immunology
What are the main events of the immune response when the body is infected by intra and extracellular parasites, essential components of many diseases? In this module you’ll be introduced to the fundamental concepts behind cellular and molecular immunology. You’ll learn about the main characteristics and features of the innate and adaptive immune system, their functions and how they relate to each other. You’ll explore current immune-techniques, modern concepts of immune-deficiency and hypersensitivities, and contemporary topics in animal and human diseases.
Professional Skills for Bioscientists
In this module you will develop and consolidate your professional competencies and abilities as a bioscientist. You’ll improve your core professional skills in the scientific method, experimentation, data analysis and measurement techniques that enable you carry out scientifically-sound research in animal, crop or management science. You’ll also cover discipline-specific topics. There will be a mix of lectures, workshops and group activity sessions for you to work on your skills.
Molecular Techniques in Biosciences
This is a practical-based module that aims to provide the underlying principles of key techniques in molecular biology and enables students to get hands-on experience in a wide range of molecular techniques, developing skills that will be useful in their subsequent research projects. Some more advanced techniques will be demonstrated and the underlying principles discussed.
Understanding reproduction is important for many different aspects of agriculture. In this module, you’ll become familiar with the physiology and regulation of male and female mammalian reproduction, the control of avian reproduction and lactational physiology. You’ll look at reproduction in male and female mammals, including physiological control, cyclicity and reproductive efficiency. You’ll also consider the principal features of avian physiology and reproduction in domestic fowl, with an emphasis on the nutritional and metabolic challenges associated with commercial rates of egg lay. Lactational physiology will also be discussed, and you’ll learn about the development of mammary tissue, the biochemistry of milk synthesis, the endocrine control of milk secretion, and the metabolic correlates of lactation in dairy ruminants. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions for experimental work and dissection.
Bacterial Biological Diversity
This module is designed to provide an understanding of the extent of bacterial biological diversity. Following introductory lectures on bacterial taxonomy and classification and web-page design, you’ll undertake two student-centred exercises. The first will be the production of an essay on a chosen organism covering its taxonomy, biology and ecology. The second will be a group exercise to design a web site including the material collated for the essay.
The module will provide an introduction to viruses and their interactions with their hosts (bacteria, plants and animals including humans) as well as discussing the structure of viruses and their significance including pathogenesis and molecular biology. You’ll spend four hours per week in lectures studying for this module.
Plant Physiology and Applied Crop Science
Crops use solar energy, water and nutrients to grow, but how do scientists and managers overcome the limits to this growth? In this module you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of plant physiology with an applied context – right the way from the molecular level to the field. You’ll cover major crop species in the UK and worldwide and examine the physiological basis of resource capture and utilisation in crop growth and development. You’ll explore limitations to resource capture by crops and how growers overcome these, in relation to integrated crop management. You’ll also learn about the physical aspects of the plant environment incorporating the key processes of photosynthesis, respiration, uptake and transpiration of water, and the uptake of mineral nutrients. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
Analysis of Bacterial Gene Expression
This module covers the major techniques required for analysis of gene expression including methods for gene sequence and transcriptional analysis. An in depth study of vectors and gene constructs provides an understanding of the different strategies used in creating mutants and identifying gene function in bacteria. As well as practicals, the coursework exercises are designed to illustrate the topics covered in the lecture course and will give students experience of experimental design and critical analysis of research data and an introduction to bioinformatics for the analysis of DNA and protein sequences.
Microbial Biotechnology: Genes to Products
The course will cover topics such as: strain improvement strategies; biological control; the principles of genetic modification in prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms; basic concepts of metabolic pathways and gene regulation; stress responses in relation to pathway manipulation; the production of native and heterologous enzymes; yeasts as models in functional genomics and biological control. You’ll have a weekly three hour lecture to cover content in this module.
Physiology of Excitable Tissues
Building on the physiology of year one, this module considers the physiology and pharmacology of systems involving the principal electrically excitable tissues in the body i.e. the nervous system, muscles and cardiovascular system. You will investigate how the nervous system controls and modulates these tissues (muscles including cardiac tissue) in an integrated system. You will have lectures and practical classes to learn how to collect, analyse and present real data from the neuromuscular, somatosensory and cardiovascular systems as well as how to perform a quantitative pharmacological investigation.
Endocrine Control Systems
This module introduces students to the physiology and biochemistry of the mammalian endocrine system and to the endocrine control of homeostasis and metabolism. You will cover a more comprehensive and detailed appreciation of theoretical and applied aspects of endocrinology with lectures and groupwork. For example you will learn about the structure and biochemistry of hormonally active molecules as a tool for understanding endocrine physiology; how the endocrine system regulates calcium and glucose concentrations in the blood; how the central nervous system interacts with the main endocrine axes, and how these axes regulate major physiological and metabolic systems.
Principles of Animal Health and Disease
Animal health and diseases can have serious health implications for people and livestock. In this module you’ll learn how diseases affect the body’s physiological and immunological systems. Focusing on companion, farm and exotic animals, you’ll explore the main types of disease and how to assess the health status of an animal. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions and gain experience in safe animal handling techniques.
Plant Pests and Disease
Sugarbeet root aphids feed on the sap in the roots, causing damage and production losses. But how does this pest work and what can be done? In this module, you’ll explore how microbes and insects cause disease in plants and the effect of interactions between plants, microbes and insects. Looking globally, you’ll be able to explain the importance and the nature of the organisms that are pests and diseases of plants, including population dynamics and epidemiology. You’ll also assess the main approaches for control and management of pests and diseases, including chemical interventions, resistance breeding in plants and biological control. You’ll have lectures complemented by practical laboratory sessions, videos and demonstrations.
Computer Modelling in Science: Introduction
Modern biological and environmental science is often the study of complex systems and large data sets, and relies on computer models and analyses to understand these systems and data. This module introduces you to the computer programming and modelling techniques that are used in the biological and environmental sciences. Using relevant examples and applications, you’ll become familiar with computer programming and algorithms using the Python programming language, and explore how to analyse image data. You’ll also learn how to construct mathematical models for biological and environmental systems using difference and differential equations, with a particular emphasis on population dynamics, and how to simulate, analyse these models and fit these models to data. In computer laboratory sessions, you’ll apply your learning to specific problems, such as environmental pollution, growth of microbial populations, disease epidemics, or computer manipulation of images of plants, animals or the natural environment.
This module will provide you with an opportunity to use your initiative and knowledge to undertake an original research project under the supervision of an individual member of academic staff. You will design the study, gain familiarity with the techniques, undertake data collection, debate ethical issues and where appropriate safety procedures relevant to the topic. You’ll undertake appropriate quantitative analysis and prepare a report. Many of these projects are carried out in collaboration with research institutes and industrial partners, and many of the inventions arising from research at Nottingham have led to patents being granted and the development of successful commercial products.
Examples of recent research projects
- Expression of biotinylated proteins in the yeast system
- Molecular Pharming- Producing bioactive taxanes in transgenic tomato
- Biopharmaceuticals – Heterologous expression of therapeutic proteins
- RNA interference in plants
- Molecular detection and diagnosis of plant pathogens by DNA sequence homology
- Interleukin-1 receptor antagonists as potential anti-inflammatory drugs
- Understanding diversity and dynamics of bacterial populations using DGGE and FISH
- Use of phage to infect bacteria internalised within leafy herbs
Read BURN the Biosciences Undergraduate Research at Nottingham web pages to find out more about undergraduate research projects. BURN is a freely accessible e-journal which showcases final-year research projects undertaken by biosciences students.
Biotechnology in Animal Physiology
Through a weekly two hour lecture you will be given an understanding of the structure of the biotechnology industry, of the techniques involved, and of the opportunities offered by biotechnology. You’ll learn about genetic and epigenetic basis of gene regulation, and how this knowledge is used to develop treatments for disease.
Applied Bioethics 1: Animals, Biotechnology and Society
Animal-human interactions raise some prominent ethical issues. In this module, you’ll examine the ethical dimensions concerning animal agriculture, modern biotechnologies and research in the biosciences, in relation to both humans and non-human species. You’ll learn about the ethical frameworks used to analyse specific dilemmas raised by the human use of animals. Using specific animal and biotechnology case studies, you’ll interpret the main ethical theories and principles and apply them to the case studies to inform professional decision-making. You’ll have a mix of lectures and seminars to explore these concepts.
Coordinated Physiological Functions
This module examines the physiological basis of integrated behaviours. It covers hypothalamic control of the endocrine system, body temperature, emotion, appetite and their associated behaviours. It also has a significant practical component concerned with integrative aspects of exercise physiology. You’ll have a two hour lecture and one hour practical each week to study for this module.
This module will examine the concept of metabolic control at the gene, cell and tissue level with particular reference to the role of nutrients in regulating this process. Selected processes by which nutrients and hormones act via receptors and their signal transduction pathways to regulate tissue growth and metabolism will be described along with the mechanisms by which nutrients can act directly on the processes controlling gene expression. You’ll have a four hour lecture and four hour practical each week to study for this module.
The Microflora of Foods
You’ll be given an understanding of: the micro-organisms which are important in foods; the factors which control the development of the microflora of food products and the methods which can be used to isolate and identify bacteria from food products. You’ll spend one day per week in lectures studying for this module.
Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology
This module will enable you to comprehend the opportunities that protein engineering provides in applied microbiology and to appreciate some of the practical limitations associated with technology. You’ll gain a detailed understanding of prokaryotic protein expression and examples of its application to biotechnology. Practical classes and seminars will provide an insight into the necessary constraints and practicalities of experimental design and execution. The major coursework assignment introduces you to the rigour required for writing scientific papers.
Plants and the Light Environment
In this module, you’ll study the influence of the light environment on the physiology of native and crop species, extending from the cellular to community level. You’ll learn how to differentiate between different light signalling pathways in plants and demonstrate how these pathways function in plants. You’ll be able to explain how light is absorbed by plants to initiate energy transfer systems and to stimulate developmental pathways of photomorphogenesis. You’ll then be able to apply your knowledge in understanding the causes of variations in crop yields and how these may be used to assist in the search for improved varieties and increased productivity in agricultural systems. You’ll have a mix of lectures, demonstrations and field trips to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
Plant Cell Signalling
How does a plant know when it is being attacked? In this module you’ll learn about plant signalling molecules and the ways in which these signals are integrated to ensure appropriate responses to environmental conditions or plant pathogen attack. You’ll gain a detailed knowledge of how plants use intercellular and intracellular signalling strategies to provide information about their environment, with particular emphasis on the use of molecular genetics in enabling us to determine the nature of the signals and the cross-talk that takes place between them. You’ll have lectures and demonstrations, as well as laboratory sessions to gain practical experience of the techniques for studying plant hormone signalling.
Molecular Plant Pathology
Crops can defend themselves from disease, but how do they do it? In this module, you’ll learn about the molecular biology of plant pathogens, how these cause disease, and the mechanisms used by plants to defend themselves against such pathogens. You’ll examine the specific molecular techniques being used to develop an understanding of these plant/pathogen interactions. Bringing in current research, you’ll be able to evaluate and critically assess recent research in plant pathogen interactions.
Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Plant Genetic Manipulation
Through a weekly four hour lecture, this module focuses on the theory and application of the approaches to genetic engineering in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Tissue culture techniques, including protoplast manipulations and gene delivery systems, will be evaluated as an adjunct to conventional plant breeding and the continuing need for new plant varieties targeted to commercial markets.
Biomolecular Data and Networks
The aim of this module is to familiarize you with the experimental sources of biomolecular data, databases for such data and their interactions and the mathematical and computational ideas behind their visualization and network generation. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures and practicals studying for this module.
In this popular module, you’ll attend a five day field course to study selected field-grown crop species that have been chosen as models to illustrate major systems of production. You’ll examine the scientific principles that govern the management of field-grown crops through production to final end use, with particular emphasis being given to their physiology and ecology. Through field visits, you’ll observe and critically appraise the efficiency of current commercial production strategies and assess the scope to exploit plant responses to the environment at specific growth stages for optimal control of quality and yield. You’ll learn about the optimisation of quality and yield of crops through the manipulation of leaf, stem and root development, and the impact of post-harvest physiology on handling and storage. The field course is typically primarily based at the Sutton Bonington Campus with day-long trips to industry, farms and research organisations, and one overnight stay in an arable region.
Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
The genetic improvement of crop plants is critical to address issues of food security for a growing world population and in the face of a changing climate. It is also the key to tackling environmental degradation and to meeting the increasing strict regulations on agricultural pollution which are coming into force in many Western countries. While these issues are not identical, they are linked and efficient plant breeding can be part of the solution to both. In this module, you’ll develop an understanding of crop genetic improvement through lectures, case and literature studies, research plan presentations, external expert seminars and practical exposure to crop breeding and molecular techniques. You’ll examine how modern and technological approaches can enhance crop breeding programmes and be able to assess the limitations of these approaches. The emphasis is on the application of biotechnology to conventional breeding, but you’ll also learn about genetic modification in the genetic improvement of crops. You’ll cover temperate and tropical, annual and perennial, and in-breeding and out-breeding crops.
Reproduction and Fertility
Drawing on your knowledge from earlier modules, the Reproduction and Fertility module is advanced study into fertility regulation and manipulation in mammals. You’ll learn about the artificial control of reproductive cycles in the female and mechanisms involved in pregnancy recognition and maintenance. You’ll explore recent developments in reproductive technology and embryology as it applies to farm species, humans and endangered species. You’ll have lectures and laboratory practical sessions to apply your learning.
This module draws on current research to develop specific themes which include typical experimental techniques and the neurophysiology, neuropharmacology and pathology of sensorimotor systems. A strong emphasis will be on the physiology and pharmacology of acute and chronic pain including studying the use of analgesics to treat these conditions. You’ll have a three hour lecture and four hour practical each week to cover material for this module.
Epigenetics and Development
This module introduces current concepts of molecular mechanisms in animal development. A goal is to convey how developmental programs are remarkably conserved among species, including humans. You’ll spend two hours per week in lectures and have a four hour practical to aide your learning during this module.
Applied Bioethics 2: Sustainable Food Production, Biotechnology and the Environment
Building on Applied Bioethics 1, you’ll investigate widely accepted ethical principles and apply your insights to contemporary ethical issues in agricultural, food and environmental sciences. You’ll explore the ethical dimensions of prominent issues raised by the agricultural practices (including the use of biotechnology and GM crops) designed to meet the nutritional needs of the global population. You’ll also learn about how ethical theory can inform professional choices and public policies related to food production and environmental management. You’ll have a mix of lectures, tutorials and team-based exercises to develop a sound understanding of ethical principles.
Rapid Methods in Microbial analysis
This module will enable you to understand where new methods can replace traditional techniques of microbial detection and recording. You’ll spend four hours in lectures and have a three hour practical each week to study for this module.
This module commences with a review of microbial fermentation, including beer, cheese, yoghurt, meat and single-cell protein production, as well as sewage treatment. The underlying principles of microbial fermentation will be discussed, in addition to specific examples which will be examined in depth. From this basic knowledge the problems of microbial contamination and spoilage of the finished product will be analysed. You’ll spend four hours in lectures and have a four hour practical each week to study for this module.
Virology and Cellular Microbiology
The module will provide an in depth induction into the relationship of bacterial and viral pathogens and their hosts. Including understanding the underlying molecular basis of the adaptive response of bacteria to various environments and the mechanisms by which bacteria and viruses subvert cellular machinery. You’ll have a four hour weekly lecture to cover material for this module.
Plants and the Soil Environment
What happens below the ground that affects the water and nutrient uptake by plants? In this module, you’ll examine the acquisition of water and nutrients by plants in both agricultural and natural systems, and how plants interact with the soil environment. You’ll learn about the evolution of root adaptations which enable plants to thrive in environments with limited or excess water and nutrients. In an agricultural setting, you’ll explore how water and nutrient uptake by plants can be used to improve crop productivity and resource management, and use the practical study component to investigate new methods and technologies for below-ground phenotyping of roots. You’ll have a mix of lectures and computer-based practicals to gain a fundamental understanding of how water and nutrients are acquired by plants from the soil environment, and their influence on plant growth and development.
Plant Disease Control
In this module, you’ll gain an understanding of the applied aspects of plant disease control, in particular transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis and control strategies. You’ll analyse the problems of plant diseases and be able to describe the options available to control losses due to disease and the strengths and weaknesses of these options. You’ll examine control strategies based on a range of approaches – including application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. Importantly, you’ll learn about the strategies used by plant pathogens to spread between plants and cause disease epidemics. You’ll have lectures and a field visit, as well as practical laboratory sessions to develop laboratory skills associated with disease diagnosis.
Sex, Flowers and Biotechnology
The processes of floral development and reproduction are some of the most critical stages occurring during plant growth and development. They are fundamental for plant breeding, crop productivity and horticulture. The significance of plant reproduction is particularly pertinent to issues of food security and the future development of high yielding crops. In this module, you’ll focus on recent developments that have been made in the understanding of floral development, reproduction and seed production, including the current goals, methods and achievements in the genetic engineering of crop and horticultural plants. With an emphasis on reproductive biology or fruit production, you’ll learn how such processes can be manipulated for commercial exploitation and to facilitate crop improvement. Through a mix of lectures and seminars, you’ll gain a detailed knowledge on the developmental and molecular processes associated with flowering, seed production and fruit development.
Technology Entrepreneurship in Business
This module introduces the process of commercialising for science and technology. Commercialisation deals with developing intellectual property within the science and technology domain to a point where it is ready to enter the market. This process is an increasingly important activity as Government and business places importance on the wealth creation. You’ll have weekly lectures and two seminars.
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. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.