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Unit information: Cell and Developmental Biology in 2021/22

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 Cell and Developmental Biology
Unit code BIOL20024
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sparkes
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

All living things are composed of cells and all biological phenomena are ultimately the result of cellular activity. Developmental mechanisms govern how cells multiply, arrange themselves, and specialise, and cellular mechanisms are responsible for the responses of organisms to their environment. Cell and developmental biology are two of the most rapidly advancing areas of biology, whose medical, agronomic and biotechnological significance have been recognised by recent Nobel Prizes.

This unit will use examples of several mechanisms including cell signalling, developmental patterning, and cell differentiation in animals, plants, and microbes to illustrate how genetic information is processed, and how single cells can develop into complex, multicellular organisms.


  • to complement interests in all areas of biology
  • to provide a secure grounding for more advanced courses involving cell and developmental biology
  • to provide a secure grounding for practical projects relating to cell and developmental biology.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain a range of examples of cellular mechanisms in animals, plants and microbes
  • Explain a range of examples of developmental mechanisms in animals, plants and microbes
  • Identify common and organism specific mechanisms which enable cells to ‘communicate’ at the subcellular and intercellular level
  • Identify common and organism specific mechanisms required for developmental processes
  • Apply lateral thinking to solve problems using the core concepts delivered in the course

Teaching Information

Lectures, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities, practical exercises and independent study. There will be one formative piece of CA and one summative.

Assessment Information

Coursework from the practical classes (40%) plus summative written assessment (60%) with one essay question to be selected from a choice of three. The ILOs are assessed in both the CA and summative written assessment.


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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.