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Frontiers in Molecular Cell Biology

Module titleFrontiers in Molecular Cell Biology
Module codeBIO3077
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Helen Dawe (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 small groups of no more than 30 students. You will use your presentation skills to present one research paper or review article to the group 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 group.

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 nuclear organisation, function and morphogenesis of cilia, pili and archaella, and 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 two student presentations per session followed by time for discussion. For the student-led journal clubs you will individually analyse, evaluate and present a primary publication journal article or review article to the 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.

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 Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Individual tutorial in preparation for the presentation
Guided Independent Study24Reading and preparation for the presentation
Guided Independent Study15Preparation for the abstract assessments
Guided Independent Study88Reading and preparation for lectures and exam


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual tutorial to discuss development of student presentation1 hourAllOral
Scientific abstract2 hoursAllWritten

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 hoursAllWritten
Journal club presentation2515 minutesAllWritten
Participation in discussion54 hours6-9, 11Oral
Scientific abstract assessment102 hoursAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examinationAllAugust Ref/Def
Journal club presentationNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Participation in discussionNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable
Scientific abstract assessmentEssay examinationAllAugust 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/discussion assessments are not deferrable because of their practical nature. 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 sit a further examination. 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

  • Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K and Walter P (2007) Molecular Biology of the Cell (5th 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 polarity, cell signalling, cilia, transport

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2088 Advanced Cell Biology or BIO2098 Microbiology and Cells 2

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date