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Frontiers in Molecular Cell Biology

Module titleFrontiers in Molecular Cell Biology
Module codeBIO3077
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Vicki Gold (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Science textbooks can sometimes give the impression that we know all there is to know. In Frontiers in Molecular Cell Biology, you will move away from this idea and examine how and why scientific research in molecular cell biology is carried out. You will study four fast-moving areas and ask such questions as: How do cells carry out fundamental processes such as cell motility and cell communication? What is their relevance to medicine, engineering or agriculture? How and why are discoveries linked to advances in scientific techniques? Other than introductory and summary lectures for each area, learning is based on student-led analysis of recently published papers in journal club presentations. You will use your presentation skills to individually present one research paper to the entire class for discussion. You will learn how to analyse and present a research paper in one of the first sessions, and you each have the opportunity for a tutorial on your paper where feedback can be given before you present to the entire class. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module focuses on modern topics in molecular cell biology and aims to reinforce the analytical and presentation skills that you have learned earlier in your degree by applying them to real-world scientific problems. The module will make use of primary research papers and address the latest developments in this exciting field. One aim of the module is to understand the basic principles of cell function that overarch all life with examples drawn from kingdoms of eukaryotic life and bacteria. In addition, you will gain an understanding of the medical relevance of some cellular processes such as cell signalling, stem cells, pili, bacterial environmental sensing and chemotaxis.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe in detail and analyse the spatial organisation of cells
  • 2. Critically evaluate the molecular basis of cell motility
  • 3. Illustrate the complexity of molecular processes in living cells
  • 4. Discuss the dynamic behaviour of living cells
  • 5. Explain the molecular basis of some human disorders

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of molecular cell biology with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 7. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a subdiscipline of the biosciences
  • 8. 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...

  • 9. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using written and oral means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 10. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 11. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data with very limited guidance

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Overall, the module will provide insight into modern and competitive research areas in Molecular Cell Biology. The first lecture gives you an overview of the four subjects to be studied, and provides details of the research papers associated with each subject that will be analysed over the next few weeks. We then move on to each subject in turn: there will be a one hour introductory lecture, and then three student presentations per 2 hour session followed by time for discussion. For the student-led journal clubs you will individually analyse, evaluate and present a primary publication journal article to the entire class. The presentation will be followed by questions and discussion involving the whole class. Articles will be chosen by the lecturers. You 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. In the journal clubs you will be expected to contribute to discussion following the presentations. Your participation via asking relevant questions and contributing towards class understanding of issues raised by others will contribute up to 5% of the available marks for this module. You will also learn how to extract the most important pieces of information from a research article and summarise them in the form of a scientific abstract.

Accessibility Statement:

As part of this module you will deliver an individual journal club presentation (15-20 minutes long) in-person to the entire class. This counts towards your summative assessment for this module. The student presentation sessions are 2 hours in duration although it is possible to leave the room between presentations for a short break if needed.

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 Teaching10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching24Student-led journal club presentations & lecturer-chaired discussion
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Individual tutorial in preparation for the presentation
Guided Independent Study20Reading and preparation for the presentation
Guided Independent Study2Pre-recorded lectures on how to give a journal club presentation and how to write an abstract
Guided Independent Study2Preparation for the abstract assessments
Guided Independent Study25Exam revision
Guided Independent Study66Lecture consolidation and associated reading


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual tutorial to discuss development of student presentation1 hourAllOral
Scientific abstract200 wordsAllModel answer

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
Essay examination602 x 1000 wordsAllWritten
Journal club presentation2515-20 minutesAllWritten
Participation in discussion59 hours6-9, 11Oral
Scientific abstract assessment10200 words AllWritten & model answer


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination (60%)AllAugust Ref/Def
Journal club presentationNarrated PowerPoint on research paper (25%)AllAugust Ref/Def
Participation in discussionRetrospective raising of discussion points (5%)6-9, 11August Ref/Def
Scientific abstract assessmentScientific abstract assessment (10%)AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Selected chapters in: Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K and Walter P (2007) Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th ed.) Garland Science

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Primary research publications and review articles.

Key words search

Biology, cell biology, microscopy, bacteria, cell signalling, transport, pili, stem-cells.


Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2088 Advanced Cell Biology

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date