Skip to main content

Unit information: Cell Biology of Development and Disease in 2020/21

Unit name Cell Biology of Development and Disease
Unit code BIOCM0019
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Dillingham
Open unit status Not open

Advanced Cell Biology BIOC30601 The Dynamic Proteome BIOC30604 Cellular Information BIOC30602 Advanced Options in Biochemistry BIOC30600, Research and Communication Skills BIOC30001, Research Training BIOC30002


All Year 4 units within the MSci

School/department School of Biochemistry
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit will build on the previous three years of fundamental cell biology teaching focussing on two advanced topics with obvious parallels: developmental and cancer biology. Developmental biology is directed by highly regulated cell:cell communication to build embryonic tissues, whilst cancer is driven mis-regulation of many of these same signals leading to neoplastic cell initiation, progression and metastasis. Students will take a case-based approach to the investigation of topics and will develop an in-depth understanding of the techniques and approaches used to solve novel research problems in biochemistry.

Students will cover two main areas:

  • Developmental signalling and tissue morphogenesis using model organisms and screening technologies
  • Mis-regulated cell signalling in cancer

Each topic will be covered over a 3 week period and students will be expected to attend keynote lectures before being set a series of recent research papers to read and synthesize. They will be given opportunities to discuss and consolidate their knowledge through workshops and plenary lectures.

Over the course of the unit students will be expected to

  • Develop scientific ideas
  • Investigate the scientific process
  • Critique and synthesize ideas
  • Take an evidence-based approach to solving scientific problems

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of the latest developments in developmental and cancer biology
  2. Evaluate methodologies and approaches used in developmental and cancer biology research, with a particular focus on imaging modalities
  3. Appraise the scientific literature in both fields
  4. Understand the parallels between developmental and cancer biology and formulate approaches to studying research problems in these fields.

Teaching details

Lectures and workshops

Assessment Details

For learning (formative)

Workshop participation

Mock exam question sessions

Of learning (summative)

Written assessment (60%): a timed assessment consisting of literature comprehension/data handling questions based on prior reading and essays

Coursework (40%):

  • A written report on the design and expected outcomes of your genetic screen (20%).
  • A summary “News and Views” Style article on cancer biology (20%).

Reading and References

  • Reviews and articles from the primary scientific Literature
  • Developmental biology. Gilbert, S. F., & Barresi, M. J. (2016). Sunderland, MA. ISBN: 978-1-60535-470-5
  • Biology of Cancer (2013) Robert Weinberg 2nd edition