The Cellular and Molecular Basis of Life (C7149)

15 credits, Level 4

Autumn teaching

Throughout the diversity of life, from slime moulds to elephants, organisms are; built from cells; function by the expression of genes from DNA to proteins and cellular process via RNA intermediates; and achieve fitness by the flow of genetic information from one generation to the next.

Some organisms are unicellular, while others contain millions of cells that may be specialised to carry out particular functions in the organism as a whole.

However, the molecular and cellular processes of life are remarkably conserved and govern biological systems at all levels of complexity, so a knowledge of the essential principles of cell and molecular biology is important for any biologist, ecologist or zoologist.

In this module, you will gain an introduction to the essential concepts and components of molecular and cell biology, and cover key principles of molecular biology including:

  • the chemistry of life
  • nucleic acids
  • DNA replication and repair
  • laboratory techniques.

You also cover fundamentals of cell structure and function, including comparison of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, cell organelles, cell cycles, and microscopy techniques.

This module is designed to give anyone who is primarily interested in whole-organism biology the knowledge of essential principles of cell and molecular biology to underpin your future studies.


50%: Lecture
50%: Practical (Laboratory, Workshop)


30%: Coursework (Report)
70%: Examination (Multiple choice questions)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 40 hours of contact time and about 110 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.