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Unit information: Molecular Genetics in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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 Dr. Murray
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 nucleic acids, 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 should be able to:

1. Apply molecular techniques in a range of biological areas;

2. Explain how nucleic acids are isolated and characterised, and how their characterisation can be put to use in a range of biological subject areas;

3. Recognise the interdisciplinary nature of modern biological research;

4. Identify 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

The unit mark is based on:

  • 20% practical report in the style of a research paper (assesses ILOs 1, 2 and 4);
  • 20% multiple choice question test (assessed ILOs 1, 2 and 4);
  • 60% 1.5 hour January exam (assesses 2, 3 and 4).

Reading and References


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