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Unit information: Biological Chemistry 1A: Molecules of Life in 2015/16

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Unit name Biological Chemistry 1A: Molecules of Life
Unit code BIOC10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Leo Brady
Open unit status Not open

A-level Chemistry or equivalent strongly advised.



School/department School of Biochemistry
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The key aim of this unit is to introduce and familiarise students with fundamental molecular concepts that underpin the study of life and biomedical sciences. These concepts will be presented within the reference frame of biological and biomedical applications. Key ideas include coverage of atoms found in organisms and their chemical and physical properties, how these atoms form bonds to build up biomolecules, chemical reactivity of biomolecules including mechanisms, and techniques for analysing the molecular and atomic properties of biomolecules. The content provides a foundation for students going on to take Biological Chemistry 1B (BIOC10002), in addition to all second year Biochemistry units and other FMVS I-level units. The general aims of the unit are:

  • to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of the properties of atoms and molecules found within biological organisms
  • to understand how these molecular properties lead to and are exploited within life processes
  • to familiarise students with core technics for the practical analysis of biomolecules.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. An understanding of the basic components that form atomic matter, as found in biological systems;
  2. Knowledge of the electron arrangements in common elements found in biological systems and how these dictate the types of bonding interactions and molecular shapes they make;
  3. An understanding of basic chemical terms (including electrophile, nucleophile, acid and base) involved in simple biochemical reactions and their roles within a reaction;
  4. Familiarity with the chemical composition and properties of common biomolecules including peptides, nucleotides, carbohydrates, lipids, co-factors, and modifications such as phosphorylation, including an understanding of functional groups found in common biological molecules;
  5. An understanding of the concepts and practice of spectroscopic techniques as applied to the analysis of biomolecules;
  6. An appreciation of chemical energetics, equilibrium concepts, and reaction rates and kinetics as encountered within biochemical systems;
  7. An ability to perform basic biochemical analyses and use simple laboratory apparatus, follow instructions and operate in a safe manner;
  8. An ability to communicate basic biomolecular science concepts both verbally and in writing, including an elementary understanding of research approaches in this field.

Teaching Information

Lectures, small group tutorials, laboratory sessions and independent study. The e-Biolabs Dynamic Laboratory Manual provides important e-learning resource in advance of (and during) the laboratory sessions. A small amount of pre-tutorial online material will be provided to assist students with tutorial work. Online self test questions within e-Biolabs.

Breakdown of teaching delivery:

3 lectures per week for 10 weeks

3 practicals

3 tutorials

1 prepared essay

Summative examination at end of unit

Assessment Information

Students will be:

(i) continuously assessed in laboratory work (formative and summative, 10%) [ILOs 1-7],

(ii) through an assessed calculation (identification of compounds from spectra – summative, 10%) [ILOs 1,2,4,5]

(iii) through a 1000 word prepared essay (formative and summative, 10%) [ILO 8].

(iv) There will also be an end of unit 3-hour written examination comprising MCQs, calculations and short answer questions(summative , 70%); [ILOs 1-6, 8].

Reading and References

Chemistry for the Biosciences, 2nd edition, J Crowe and T Bradshaw, Oxford 2010 The Molecules of Life, 1st edition, J Kuriyan, B Konforti and D Wemmer, Garland Science, 2013.