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Unit information: Molecular Genetics in 2017/18

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Unit name Molecular Genetics
Unit code BIOL20015
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Edwards
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


The principles and techniques of molecular genetics are core to all other aspects of biology; for instance, next generation sequencing is now employed in areas as diverse as neurobiology, conservation biology and developmental biology; the unit will stress practical applications as well as the underpinning theoretical background. This 20 credit point unit will teach both the basic techniques of molecular genetics and their application. Topics covered will include extraction and handling of RNA and DNA, DNA sequencing and the associated bioinformatics, as well as the introduction of foreign DNA into a variety of plant and animal species. In addition, the unit will introduce students to the use of molecular markers and their application. The course is specifically designed to foster an interest in molecular genetics in all level 2 students including those who previously might have regarded the subject area as not central to their wider interests in biology. While designed to complement all areas of biology, the unit will also provide a secure grounding for those students interested in studying more advanced subject areas such as biotechnology and genetic engineering.


1. To provide an essential understanding of the molecular approaches that underpin all areas of organismal biology
2. To show how molecular genetics is central to all areas of biology and how a basic knowledge of molecular genetics is essential for any student interested in a biological career
3. To provide a secure grounding for more advanced courses in molecular biology and/or biotechnology
4. To provide a practical introduction to various molecular techniques such as DNA sequencing, genotyping and cloning

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be familiar with the application of molecular techniques in a range of biological areas.

They will have gained a basic knowledge of how DNA and RNA are isolated and characterised and how their characterisation can be put to use in a range of biological subject areas.

The students will have gained insights into the interdisciplinary nature of modern biological research, and they will have acquired knowledge of a range of biological systems of contemporary research interest.

Teaching details

• 3 x 1 hour weekly lectures
• 5 x 3 hour practicals
• Practical test for all students followed by (non-compulsory) formative feedback session (explanation of test answers) before the end of the teaching block.

Self-directed learning weeks. Students are expected to spend this time reconciling lecture notes with text-book descriptions of techniques.

Assessment Details

1. Continuous assessment (40% of total course marks) based upon:

  • A 2000 word practical report (based on practicals 1-3) in the style of a research paper
  • A multiple choice open book test covering practicals 1 - 5 (50% of continuous assessment mark)

2. Examination (60% of total course marks) covering all aspects of the subjects covered in the lectures. The examination will include two parts;

  • section A & B consisting of short answer questions
  • Section C & D essay-type questions

Reading and References


From Genes to Genomes: Concepts and Applications of DNA Technology, 3rd Edition. Dale, J.W., Von Schantz, M., Plant, N. (2011).