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Horizons of Biochemical Research

Module titleHorizons of Biochemical Research
Module codeBIO3085
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Steven West (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Biochemistry, the study of chemical processes in biological systems, is a broad discipline, encompassing biological aspects of chemistry, study of biological macromolecules, and the many ways in which chemicals are synthesised and degraded in organisms. This module seeks to engage you with recent research in diverse areas of biochemistry, giving an insight into the progress that has been made, the range of areas being explored, and the challenges for the next generation of scientists. You will actively engage with the literature across a series of six distinct areas of biochemistry, gaining a broad understanding of the current state of the art.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The frontiers of biochemistry are being continually pushed forward, with new methodologies and research expanding our understanding of the biological chemistry of the cell. Recent research has revolutionised our knowledge of key areas of biochemistry. This module will introduce you to important areas of current research across a range of biochemical areas. You will engage critically with the methods used and the scientific literature to gain a rounded understanding of the limits of current research, and how these have been reached experimentally.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Critically evaluate the methods used in studying enzyme mechanisms
  • 2. Discuss how metabolic pathways are investigated and how synthetic biology can be used to make novel compounds
  • 3. Synthesise knowledge of the molecular basis for catalysis of a range of enzymes
  • 4. Discuss the role of Wnt signalling pathways in health and disease
  • 5. Understand how protein conformational changes underpin function and are studied
  • 6. Understand mechanisms of microbial micronutrient capture

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of biochemistry with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 8. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a subdiscipline of the biosciences
  • 9. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using written and oral means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 12. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data with very limited guidance
  • 13. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The contents of the module will be selected from the following subject areas:

  • Tools for investigating biochemical mechanisms;
  • DNA structure and protein-DNA complexes;
  • RNA structure, RNA enzymes and protein synthesis;
  • site directed mutagenesis and enzyme directed evolution;
  • investigation of biosynthetic pathways; synthetic biology;
  • Wnt signalling pathway
  • Protein conformational changes and the methods used to study it
  • Microbial micronutrient capture

For the student-led journal clubs you will work in a small group (normally three per group) to analyse, evaluate and present a primary publication journal article to the class by way of producing a narrated Powerpoint presentation. Articles will be chosen by the lecturers. Your group will have two weeks to research and prepare your journal club, during which time you will meet and receive guidance from one of the lecturers associated with the module. Your journal club presentation will be assessed by both a group mark and an individual mark, with equal weighting given to each.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Journal clubs
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Feedback on first group presentations
Guided Independent Study8Group presentations
Guided Independent Study10Guided analysis of research paper
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for research presentation
Guided Independent Study50Preparation of review article
Guided Independent Study42Guided reading of literature, literature research


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Responses to journal club questions500 words1-12Orally during session
Preparation of Group presentations 12 minute presentation1-13Orally during session
Group presentation feedback 12 minute presentation1-13Orally during session and written using specialised feedback form
Literature review preparation 1 page plan 1-12Orally during feedforward session and written feedback on plan.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation 11012 minutesAllWritten and oral
Group presentation 23012 minutesAllWritten and oral
Literature review plan101 page1-12Written
Literature review 502,500-3,500 1-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentation 1Not applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Group presentation 2Not applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Literature review plan Literature review plan 1-12August Ref/Def
Literature reviewLiterature review1-12August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The presentation assessment is not deferrable as it is a group exercise. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to write another literature review. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Berg JM, Tymoczko JL and Stryer L (2019) Biochemistry, 9th Ed., Freeman, ISBN 1319114679
  • Garrett RH and Grisham CM (2017) Biochemistry, 6th Ed., Brooks and Cole, ISBN¬†1-305-57720-5

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Journal reviews and research articles will be made available.

Key words search

Protein, enzyme, RNA, DNA, catalysis, mechanism, biochemistry, evolution, metalloenzyme, pathway, carbohydrate, polysaccharide, Wnt pathway, synthetic biology 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2090Analysis of Biological Macromolecules or BIO2086 Metabolism

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date