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Study information

Horizons of Biochemical Research

Module titleHorizons of Biochemical Research
Module codeBIO3085
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Steven West (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Biochemistry, the study of chemical processes in biological systems, is a broad discipline, encompassing biological aspects of chemistry, study of biological macromolecules, and their use in organisms. This module seeks to engage you with recent research in diverse areas of biochemistry, giving an insight into the progress that has been made, the range of areas being explored, and the challenges for the next generation of scientists. You will actively engage with the literature across a series of four distinct areas of biochemistry, gaining a broad understanding of the current state of the art.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The frontiers of biochemistry are being continually pushed forward, with new methodologies and research expanding our understanding of the biological chemistry of the cell. Recent research has revolutionised our knowledge of key areas of biochemistry. This module will introduce you to key areas of current research across a range of biochemical areas. You will engage critically with the methods used and the scientific literature to gain a rounded understanding of the limits of current research, and how these have been reached experimentally.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Understand and critically evaluate recent advances in Biochemical research
  • 2. Understand and critically evaluate primary research papers describing discoveries in module-specific areas of research

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of biochemistry with reference to primary literature, reviewsreviews, and research articles
  • 4. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a subdiscipline of the biosciences

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Effectively communicate arguments, evidence and conclusions using written and oral means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 6. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 7. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

The contents of the module will be selected from the following subject areas:

  • Tools for investigating biochemical mechanisms;
  • DNA structure and protein-DNA complexes;
  • RNA structure, RNA enzymes and protein synthesis;
  • Site-directed mutagenesis and enzyme directed evolution;
  • Investigation of biosynthetic pathways; synthetic biology;
  • Protein conformational changes and the methods used to study it
  • Microbial micronutrient capture


Student-led presentations: You will work in a small group (normally three per group) to analyse, evaluate, and present a primary publication journal article to the class via a PowerPoint presentation. Articles will be chosen by the lecturers. Your group will usually have at least 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. Your journal club presentation will be assessed by both a group mark and an individual mark, with equal weighting given to each.

Critical evaluation of a scientific paper: You will critically evaluate one of four possible scientific papers (one per topic covered). This will be a primary paper describing an important discovery in that field. You will be expected to critically evaluate the paper to address questions on its content, major discoveries, strengths, flaws and implications.

Accessibility Statement:
As part of this module, you will undertake lectures and presentations that are up to 2hrs in duration. Breaks are possible and students can leave the lecture for short periods. The module involves group work (2-3 students per group) that will involve the group giving a presentation to the whole cohort.

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 Teaching14Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Group presentations (4x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Journal club
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Feedback on group presentations
Guided Independent Study15Guided analysis of research paper
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for research presentation
Guided Independent Study45Preparation for exam
Guided Independent Study46Guided reading of literature, literature research, consolidation of pre-recorded lecture material

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Responses to journal club questionsAd hoc1-6Orally during session
Preparation of Group presentations12-min presentation1-7Orally during session

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
Group presentation4012 mins + 3 mins questions1-7Written and oral
Critical evaluation of scientific paper601,500 words1-6Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationIndividual narrated PowerPoint on same topic1-7August Ref/Def
Critical evaluation of scientific paperCritical evaluation of scientific paper1-6August 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

  • Berg JM, Tymoczko JL and Stryer L (2019) Biochemistry, 9th Ed., Freeman, ISBN 1319114679
  • Garrett RH and Grisham CM (2017) Biochemistry, 6th Ed., Brooks and Cole, ISBN 1-305-57720-5

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Journal reviews and research articles will be made available.

Key words search

Protein, enzyme, RNA, DNA, catalysis, mechanism, biochemistry, evolution, metalloenzyme, pathway, carbohydrate, polysaccharide, synthetic biology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO2090 Analytical Techniques in Biochemistry or BIO2086 Metabolism

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date