The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.
Genes, Molecules and Cells
This module combines lectures and laboratory classes and introduces you to the structure and function of significant molecules in cells, and the important metabolic processes which occur inside them. You will study, amongst other topics, protein and enzyme structure and function, the biosynthesis of cell components, and the role of cell membranes in barrier and transport processes. You'll examine how information in DNA is used to determine the structure of gene products. Topics include DNA structure, transcription and translation and mutation and recombinant DNA technology.
Core Skills in Biology
This module focuses on developing the core skills needed by biologists in scientific writing, data handling and analysis, experimental design and scientific presentations. Alongside lectures and workshops, small-group tutorials are an important component of this module. In these tutorials, you get to know the member of staff who will be your tutor for the duration of your studies, discuss scientific topics relevant to your degree, and practice key skills such as essay-writing and data-handling.
Life on Earth
Life on Earth provides an introduction to the fundamental characteristics and properties of the myriad of organisms which inhabit our planet, from viruses, bacteria and Archaea, to plants and animals. In weekly lectures, and regular laboratory practical classes, you will consider how living organisms are classified, how they are related genetically and phylogenetically, and basic aspects of their structure and function.
You must choose a minimum of one module from the following:
Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour
Starting with Darwin’s theory of evolution, you will learn how natural selection and other evolutionary forces have shaped the ways in which organisms interact with each other and their environment. In addition to lectures, practical classes will give you hands-on experience with a range of ecological and behavioural concepts in the laboratory and the field.
In this module, you will be introduced to the physiology of the major systems eg cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal, mostly in man, including some aspects of drug action. This module will allow you to understand your biochemical and genetics knowledge in the context of the intact organism. This module includes lectures and laboratory classes.
Fundamentals of Neuroscience
This module will give you a good grounding in the basic principles of the nervous system of humans and other animals. Topics will include neuroanatomy, cellular neuroscience, neuropharmacology, sensory systems, neuroendocrinology, memory, behavioural neuroscience and diseases of the nervous system. These will be delivered through weekly lectures and practical classes.
Further module options:
You also have to choose an additional module, which can be done by selecting one further module from the three offered above or by selecting a module of your choice from those offered outside the school.
Higher Skills in the Biological Sciences
You will gain confidence and skills in using the biological literature. Your knowledge of statistical methods will be reinforced and developed, and, through designing your own experiments, you will learn to build statistical principles into their experimental methodologies. Through writing a dissertation, you will learn to collate information from multiple sources, and describe a field clearly and concisely, revealing the state of present knowledge and prospects for future developments.
The Genome and Human Disease
In this module you will learn about the structure and function of the eukaryotic genome, including that of humans, and the approaches that have led to their understanding. You will learn about techniques that are employed to manipulate genes and genomes and how they can be applied to the field of medical genetics. By using specific disease examples, you will learn about the different type of DNA mutation that can lead to disease and how they have been identified. Practical elements will teach you about basic techniques used in medical genetics such as sub-cloning of DNA fragments into expression vectors. Practical classes and problem based learning will be used to explore the methods used for genetic engineering and genome manipulation.
Evolutionary Biology of Animals
Introduces key evolutionary concepts and their application in the animal kingdom. Areas you will study include the history of evolutionary thinking, natural selection versus the neutral theory, sexual selection and human evolution.
Biological Photography and Imaging 1
Through practical sessions, you will learn the techniques of biological image production and manipulation, including the ability to generate biological images of the highest technical quality and scientific value. You will build an understanding of the principles behind photography and how to get the most out of state of the art photographic and imaging equipment.
Behavioural Ecology Field Course
This is a residential field course in Portugal based on research projects in animal behaviour, ecology and parasitology, carried out in small groups. You’ll stay at a purpose-built field centre in beautiful countryside outside Lisbon. Typical projects involve finding out why birds carry feather mites, how honeybees choose where to forage, and why frogs make so much noise in the mating season. This module takes place over 15 days in the Easter vacation.
Biodiversity Field Course
This seven day residential field course module is based in the English Peak District. The module aims to introduce students to practical techniques in field biology and data presentation and analysis against a background of awareness of the variation in British habitat types. You will be encouraged to use self-collected data to learn about basic concepts in ecology and conservation such as species-area relationships, the measurement of richness and diversity and the design of reserve networks.
Infection and Immunity
In this module you will study basic immunology, learning about the organs, cells and molecules of the immune system and the mechanisms engaged in the generation an of immune response to pathogens. You will learn by studying examples of types of human pathogens (viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoa and helminths), the varied nature of the immune response, depending on the pathogen, its niche(s) in the host and pathogen strategies for invading and surviving in the host. You will learn how immunological methods can be effectively utilized for disease diagnosis and vaccine development, and about the consequences of failure of normal immune function, including autoimmunity and hypersensitivity.
Animal Behaviour and Physiology
This module will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the study of animal behaviour, from the physiological and genetic bases of behaviour to its development through learning and its adaptive significance in the natural environment. Through practical classes, you will learn about the physiological basis of fundamental behaviours. Using examples from across the animal kingdom, you will learn how predictive modelling, experimental and observational approaches integrate to explain how and why animals behave as they do.
You will learn about the forces determining the distribution and abundance of species and be able to use models to predict the dynamics of populations under a range of conditions. You will recognise how interactions between species can drive co-evolutionary processes leading to an understanding of the organisation of natural systems working systematically from populations through to communities, ecosystems and biogeographical scales.
This module enables you to develop an elementary understanding of modern molecular imaging techniques, in addition to a historical overview of microscopy. You will acquire theoretical and practical knowledge of how to localise and analyse macromolecule behaviours in fixed and living cells.
You'll cover the key groups of eukaryotic and prokaryotic microorganisms relevant to microbial biotechnology, principles of GM, and strain improvement in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The impact of “omics”, systems biology, synthetic biology and effects of stress on industrial microorganisms are explored, alongside the activities of key microorganisms that we exploit for biotechnology.
Bacterial Genes and Development
Molecular events that occur during the control of gene expression in bacteria will be described. You'll learn by considering case studies, which will show you how complex programmes of gene action can occur in response to environmental stimuli. You will also study the regulation of genes in pathogenic bacteria.
Studying this module, you'll be able to explain how the nervous system develops, is organised, and processes information. This will be achieved through presentation of comparative invertebrate and vertebrate studies, consideration of evolutionary concepts, and a detailed analysis of the development, structure, and function of the mammalian brain. The lecture sessions are complemented by workshops on Drosophila and chick embryo development, on the neuroanatomy of the human spinal cord, and dissection of pig brains subject to the availability of tissue.
Examines the basic concepts of vertebrate embryonic development. You will discuss specific topics including germ cells, blood and muscle cell differentiation, left-right asymmetry and miRNAs. The teaching for this module is delivered through lectures.
Neurobiology of Disease
This module will teach you the underlying neurophysiology and pathology associated with several common CNS disorders and the neuropharmacology of currently available medication. You will learn about the neurotransmitters and pathways involved in normal brain function and how changes in these contribute to abnormal function. You will also decipher the pharmacological mechanisms of drugs used to treat these CNS disorders. You will cover numerous human diseases including those with great significance such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism.
Neurons and Glia
This module will provide you with an understanding of the mechanisms behind electrical conduction in neurones. You will learn about the generation of the membrane potential and its essential role in signaling within the nervous system. You will develop an appreciation of the role of ion channels in the generation of trans-membrane currents and how myelin can accelerate signal conduction. You will also learn about the important supporting roles that astrocytes and glial cells play in the nervous system in order to ensure its efficient functioning.
Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics
This module will provide an in-depth analysis of drug action, and its application to the design and use of current therapeutics. You will learn to define what drugs are, the different ways they act at the cellular and molecular level, and the pharmacokinetic principles underlying drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination. You will explore examples in cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes and obesity, CNS disorders, cancer and infectious disease. Overall, you will develop a deep understanding of what the discipline of pharmacology represents, and its application to both basic biological research and current and future medical advances.
Signalling and Metabolic Regulation
This module will explain the main signalling mechanisms that take place in eukaryotic cells. You will learn about the main signalling mechanisms and pathways which can control protein levels, activity and intra-cellular site of action. This knowledge will then be placed in the context of the regulation of major metabolic pathways, such that you will understand the factors influencing metabolic control, and dysregulation leading to major modern diseases like type II diabetes and heart disease.
Structure, Function and Analysis of Genes
This module will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the structures of DNA and RNA and how the information within these nucleic acids is maintained and expressed in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell types. Additionally, this module describes how nucleic acids can be manipulated in vitro using molecular biological approaches. Practical classes will focus your learning on the cloning and manipulation of DNA to express recombinant proteins in bacterial systems.
The Green Planet
This module explores the evolution of key plant systems through deep time, and the significance of this process for understanding modern ecology and food security. You will learn about the challenges that plants faced when moving onto land and evolutionary innovations within the early spermatophytes. You will also gain an understanding of the power of natural selection in producing plant diversity over deep time.
Typical year three modules
The project is a year-long level three module. You will undertake detailed research on a chosen topic after discussion with a supervisor. Each project will involve collection of data by means such as experiment, questionnaire or observation, as well as the analysis and interpretation of the data in the context of previous work.
Science and Society
This module will explore the interactions between science and society through a series of lectures, discussion groups and workshops. Topics that will be explored include the ethical parameters that govern how scientific work is constrained, ways in which scientific discoveries can/should be disseminated to the wider community, the wider responsibilities that follow the acquisition of new knowledge and the concept of ‘citizen science’, where science takes place outside the traditional academic centres of work. This mode consists of a three-hour lecture incorporating discussion groups once per week.
Molecular Plant Pathology
Covers the molecular techniques being used to develop an understanding of plant/pathogen interactions. You will consider the molecular biology of plant pathogens, how these cause disease, and the mechanisms used by plants to defend themselves against such pathogens. You will spend around three hours per week in lectures studying this module.
You will examine the symbiotic relationships between plants and microbes, such as in nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal associations, and contrast these with the relationships between plants and pathogenic microbes and the methods used by these to cause disease. This module consists of a three-hour lecture once per week.
Considers immunological interactions between parasites and their hosts. Initially the mechanisms involved and the consequences of host responses/resistance to infection are reviewed across diverse taxa of parasitic organisms. You will discuss the strategies evolved by parasites to enable survival in the face of host immunity in some depth. You will spend around three-hours per week in lectures studying this module.
Biological Photography and Imaging II
Extends and develops your skills of creative and critical biological photography. You will continue to develop the practice and experience gained in Biological Photography and Imaging 1. You are encouraged to demonstrate increasing expertise in selected subject areas and/or specialist photographic techniques such as digital imaging and manipulation (using Photoshop software), digital video photography and editing, ecological and environmental photography, landscapes, macro and long lens photography and specialist lighting. Field and studio work continue to be essential elements of the module. You will have around three hours of lectures per week studying this module.
This module gives a detailed understanding of the genetics and biochemistry behind the properties of parasites and microorganisms that cause major human diseases in the present day. You will have a three-hour lecture once per week for this module.
Considers the genetic effects of reduced population size, especially relating to the conservation of endangered species. You will study topics including genetic drift and inbreeding in depth, from theoretical and practical standpoints. You will spend around one and a half hours per week in lectures studying this module, plus a two and a half hour computer practical.
Examines a selection of acquired and inherited cancers, and develops an understanding of the role of the genes involved and how they can be analysed. To study for this module you will have a two- or three-hour lecture once per week.
Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Considers ion channels at the molecular level, with topics including the structure and function of different ion channel groups and their modulation by drugs, pesticides and natural toxins. You will also consider the synthesis and transport of neurotransmitters and the formation and release of synaptic vesicles. This module involves one three hour session per week incorporating eight lectures and two practical sessions.
Evolution and Behaviour
A series of student-driven assignments, discussion groups and problem-solving workshops on evolutionary biology, with an emphasis on behaviour. You will consider topics such as adaptation, sex and evolution, kinship theory, communication, and human behavioural ecology. There are four hours of lectures and workshops each week in this module.
Considers current knowledge of, and research into, the ecological causes and evolutionary processes that govern natural selection, adaptation and microevolution in natural populations. You will examine three approaches to the study of evolutionary ecology: theoretical and optimality models; the comparative method; and direct measurement of natural selection in the wild. You will have two-to three hours of lectures each week in this module.
Examines genetic variation in humans, including variation at the DNA level, and the study of human population history using genetic methods. Around three hours per week will be spent within lectures studying this module.
Considers a range of approaches to conservation biology, such as the measurement and monitoring of biodiversity, and the legal frameworks and management strategies that exist to protect it. You will discuss particular threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss and invasive species. You will spend around four hours per week in lectures and have four three-hour practicals to study for this module.
Ageing, Sex and DNA Repair
Examines the molecular causes of the ageing and malignant transformations of somatic cells that are observed during a single lifespan, and the necessity to maintain the genome intact from one generation to the next. Around three hours per week will be spent within lectures studying this module.
Plant Disease Control
Discusses applied aspects of plant disease control, comprising transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis, and control options. You will cover control strategies based on application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. You will also consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches. This module consists of a four-hour lecture once per week.
Examines the mechanisms through which eukaryotic genes are expressed and regulated, with emphasis placed on recent research on transcriptional control in yeast and post-transcriptional control in eukaryotes. Studying this module will include having three hours of lectures per week.
Advanced Developmental Biology
You will consider the molecular mechanisms underlying stem cell function during embryogenesis and adulthood. This will involve studies of regeneration and repair of tissues and pluripotency. You will have one two-hour lecture per week in this module.
Aquatic Biology in a Changing Environment
The module will consider current knowledge of, and research into, organismal structure and function in aquatic environments, and the attributes of aquatic ecosystems, in the context of global environmental change. Three types of aquatic systems will be covered by the module: marine, estuarine and freshwater systems. The focus will be on physiological adaptations to the aquatic environment, and ecological structure of aquatic communities, as well as the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances and climate impacts. The module is delivered by a three-hour lecture once a week.
Typical year four modules
The project is a year-long module. Preparatory work (literature review and familiarisation with laboratory/field safety protocols etc.) occurs in autumn, with the bulk of the practical work in spring. You will choose the topic of your project from a list of suggestions relevant to your degree subject and will finalise this after consultation with your supervisor. The project involves an extensive piece of detailed research. Reading and collating earlier research by other scientists working in the area is an essential component. You will use your literature review to write a research grant proposal, which outlines the hypotheses to be tested, the proposed experimental design and the research costs associated with the project. The practical component involves collection of data from a laboratory or field investigation and appropriate analysis. Your findings will be interpreted in the context of previous work, and written up in a clear and concise final report in the form of a research paper.
Research Presentation Skills
An introduction to the presentation skills required in a modern scientific career. A series of lectures will provide you with background ideas about best practice in oral, written and internet-based research communication. Regular tutorials will require you to present and discuss with peers recent key papers in your broad field of study, and also to produce a written summary of a paper for a lay audience. In workshops, you will be asked to prepare a webpage and a poster using appropriate software. You will have between one and eight hours of lectures and workshops per week when studying for this module.
Cutting-Edge Research Technologies and Ideas in Molecular Biology
This module will bring you up to date with the latest technological developments in molecular biology that you are unlikely to have encountered in detail in your first three years. We also discuss and explore how new technologies with broad implications come into existence and follow the process of establishment, acceptance and dissemination through the scientific community. You will have a three hour workshop once per week for this module.
Advanced Experimental Design and Analysis
This is an advanced level biological statistics module, building on basic undergraduate (Levels one and two) training. Lectures discuss concepts in experimental design, biological probability, generalised linear modelling and multivariate statistics. Practical sessions build on this conceptual outline, giving you hands-on experience of problem solving and analytical software, and some basic programming skills. You will spend three to four hours within lectures and workshops when studying this module.
Process and Practice in Science
A consideration of science ‘as a process’, with brief introductions to the history, philosophy and sociological norms of science. You will cover aspects of the scientific literature and scientific communication, peer review, 'metrics’, including citation analysis, journal impact factors, and the 'h' and other indices of measuring scientists' performances. You will also cover ethics in science and the changing relationship between scientists, government and the public. You will have a three hour lecture once per week during this module.