BSc Biological Sciences options
Year 2, Component 03
Option(s) from list
Molecular Biology: Genes, Proteins and Disease
Molecular biology is central to our knowledge of how biology "works" at a molecular level. This module explores the breadth of processes involved in the regulation of gene expression and the proteins that are made. You also discover the ever-expanding range of molecular biology techniques, including PCR, cloning and mutagenesis, and how these are applied to investigate and treat disease.
We are in the age of genomics and scientists have devised new technologies that can generate whole genome sequences in days which would once have taken years to achieve. Learn the high-throughput techniques of next-generation sequencing used to study genomes, the proteome and the interactome. Investigate how nucleotide sequences are analysed, applying the analytical tools used by research scientists and understand how new genes are discovered and their functions revealed. You also discover how our knowledge of gene structure is being applied in the emerging field of synthetic biology to create new organisms and modify existing ones by gene editing.
Our bodies are under attack. So how do we defend ourselves against foreign invaders? Explore the anatomical and structural components of the immune system and assess what happens in the event of immunodysfunction. Utilising real-world case-studies (eg AIDS), and looking at specific examples (eg allergy and transplantation) you will review important aspects of clinical immunology and immuno-pathology, gaining an understanding of auto-immunity and immune-deficiencies. You will also consider the future of human immunology – evaluating how far vaccines can protect us against disease. Using the knowledge you have gained you will be able to identify areas of current immunology understanding that could lead to positive medical intervention.
The study of cells is at the centre of modern biology. Learn how cellular components determine cell structure and function, how cells communicate and how signaling pathways regulate cell fate. You also explore the regulation of the cell cycle and cell death and learn about changes that occur in cells that have become cancerous. A solid understanding of cell biology opens doors to more specialist topics, such as plant biotechnology and cancer biology.
Assess the importance of zinc, copper and iron in biological systems and review how they are kept in stable equilibrium. Explore the structure and functions of proteins and enzymes that contain metal cofactors and discuss the diseases and possible treatments associated with both metal deficiency and overload.
If we were to compile the DNA sequence of the human genome into a book, it would be 200,000 pages long, and would take 10 years to read. The ability to effectively interpret and analyse large-scale genetic and genomic data sets is a crucial skill for next-generation biologists. The module provides a basic introduction to R, the programming language of choice for biologists industry and academia. You learn to write scripts and functions, read and write data files in different formats, use basic plot functionalities and perform basic statistical analysis.
We all know food is the fuel of life – but how do our bodies turn the things we put on our plate into the energy we need to function? Study the processes that coordinate metabolism of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, paying particular attention to organ specialisation, hormonal control, metabolic homeostasis and appetite and body weight. The consequences of disturbances to metabolism will also be discussed.
The aim of this module is to provide a view of how a fundamental understanding of plant processes can impact on the production of plants for the 21st century. Learn the essential processes and constraints on plant growth and development, and explore how innovative technological approaches in plant sciences may provide real solutions to our future predicted global food shortage. You’ll look into key aspects of plant physiology such as different photosynthetic mechanisms, and modern approaches to manipulating plant performance and growth.
This module will develop your understanding of how researchers examine the molecular components of life to better understand the ecology of living organisms. This feeds directly into modern approaches for conservation biology, monitoring ecosystems, examining species iterations, and advancing our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary relationships supporting a living planet. This module will be delivered via a series of lectures and lab practicals, with a balanced emphasis on both applying knowledge and understanding theory.
Examine how competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, disease and parasitism affect the distribution, abundance and growth of populations, and how populations interact to affect the structure and dynamics of ecological communities. You apply this ecological knowledge to real-world problems, such as pest control and conservation.
Human activity is resulting in an ever-accelerating rate of extinction of biodiversity. Many species in the tropics are becoming extinct even before they have been described by science, while many more are threatened worldwide, including in the UK. Considering the need for biodiversity conservation, you work alongside some of the key employers in the sector including Essex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. Topics include sustainable fisheries and agriculture, climate change, environmental law and captive breeding and re-introduction.
Our oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planets water. This vast underwater world supports a huge diversity of living organisms – get to know them. You learn how to assess biodiversity, measure species distribution and regulate populations. Systems of particular focus include biodiversity hot-spots such as coral reefs and rocky shores. You also have chance to practically apply your skills, examining the biodiversity of muddy and sandy shores, and investigating the morphological and genetic diversity in marine amphipods.
Microbes have been on the Earth for at least 3.5 billion years; they tolerate or require a huge range of physico-chemical extremes and perform a remarkable array of functions. This module will examine the diversity of microbes, and how they can be applied for the benefit of society and the environment, for example by bioremediation of contaminated land, recovery of oil and metals, production of biofuels and therapeutic compounds.
The importance of marine vertebrates to our aquatic systems cannot be underestimated, yet some of our most iconic underwater species are under serious threat. This module focuses on the taxonomy, physiology, ecology and conservation of the top predators and keystone species, including (but not limited to), whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, manatees, marine turtles and sea snakes.
You’ll gain an insight into biology and ecology of tropical coral reef systems. By explaining the nature of the connection between coral reefs and tropical biomes, we help you gain a thorough understanding of the ecological functioning of coral reef systems. We explore the biology of coral reef systems, the landscape ecology of tropical coastal marine systems and examine the importance of the threats to these systems and the options for management.
Coral reefs are overexploited, threatened by multiple anthropogenic stressors and in need of protection through appropriate management. You will develop practical skills in coral reef monitoring, assessment and research, and will receive training in scuba diving, species identification, and scuba- and snorkel-based assessment and monitoring techniques. Learn how to design, implement and report on scientifically robust underwater research. You'll have the opportunity to undertake a speciality field-course and can be awarded a Coral Reef Research diver certification from the Profession Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). As part of this module you will visit the coral triangle in South East Sulawesi, Indonesia, where you will conduct coral reef research by diving or snorkelling, attend lectures, workshops and feedback sessions. There is an additional cost for this trip (currently approximately £2,000), which you will be required to pay.
This module aims to provide a virtually-delivered alternative to in situ field courses that gives students the opportunity to develop core research skills used widely in tropical marine ecology. The module will focus on practical skills in coral reef surveying, with a particular emphasis on technological alternatives to traditional observational approaches with direct relevance to both further study and employability in the tropical marine research and conservation sector. Students will briefly experience traditional survey techniques using video footage collected from coral reefs in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific, before completing workshops in novel alternatives such as stereo-video surveys for fish community analysis and 3D modelling via structure-from-motion photogrammetry to quantify habitat complexity. Students will also have the opportunity to interview a local conservation practitioner to develop an understanding of the unique challenges facing reef management stakeholders, especially in low income countries. Finally, students will apply their new survey skills to independent mini-research projects, using a combination of unanalysed raw images/video and larger raw data sets to produce a short report in scientific paper format.
Bioinformatics have become an indispensable skill for the next generation of biochemists and biologists in order to retrieve, analyse and interpret data. You will learn how to access, search and extract data from publicly available protein databases, and analyse and display results using appropriate software.
The brain is an extremely complex organ, and there is much that we still have to learn about its processes and functions. This module will detail the psychological mechanisms that underlie human behaviour and highlight the possibility that even our deepest thoughts and feelings arise from electrical and chemical activity in our brains.
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