Introduction to Molecular Biology for Programmers


Prepared by: Nicki Tiffin
Module Name: Introduction to Molecular Biology for Programmers
Contact hours (to be used as a guide)Total (40 hours), Theory (60%), Practical (40%)


On completion of this module, students should be able to

1. Explore the classification of living organisms.
2. Identify cell organelles and their functions.
3. Become familiar with the central dogma of molecular biology.
4. Understand the genetic code and codon degeneracy.
5. Differentiate between DNA and RNA and be familiar with their structure.
6. Learn the processes of transcription and translation and the cellular machinery involved.
7. Recognise secondary and tertiary structures of proteins, and how they are formed.
8. Understand the molecular and genetic basis for human diseases.
9. Undersand molecular biology laboratory techniques.


H3ABioNet bioinformatics modules as pre-requisites: None
Additional: No biological background required


1. Background reading: The New Genetics. NIH Publication No.10

2. Publication: Predicting Function: From Genes to Genomes and Back. Bork et al.. J. Mol. Biol. (1998) 283, 707±725 DOI: 10.1006/jmbi.1998.2144

3. Background reading: Molecular Biology of the Gene, 7th Edition (2013) By Watson J. D., Baker T. A., Alexander G., Levine M. and Losick R.

4. Background reading: Lewin’s genes XI, 11th Edition (2012) Jocelyn E. Krebs, Elliott S. Goldstein, Stephen T. Kilpatrick.


A) Theory lectures

1. Introduction to Biology. (1 hour)
a. The building blocks of life.
b. Cells and cell components.
c. Kingdoms of life.

2. The Central Dogma. (3-4 hours)
a. History of genetics.
b. Central dogma.
c. DNA structure, conformation, denaturation, renaturation & topology.
d. DNA replication and repair.
e. Transcription.
f. RNA structure.
g. Genes and gene regulation.
h. Translation.

3. Recombination and transposition. (1 hour)

4. Protein structure and function. (1-2 hours)

5. Biological pathways. (1 hour)

6. Genomes – structure, browsing genomes. (1 hour)

7. Population genetics. (1 hour)

8. Molecular biology techniques. (1-2 hours)

B) Practical component

Six practical sessions:

1. Exercise/quiz on DNA and RNA. (follows lecture 2(e))
2. Class exercise – translation. (follows lecture 2(h))
3. Exercises browsing genomes. (follows lecture 6)
4. Cloning exercise. (follows lecture 8)
5. Comprehension paper. (homework)
6. Presentations. (short seminar on a particular biology topic)


Class exercises (no weight, not for marks)
Seminar (5% weight)
Comprehension paper (20% weight)
Biology test (theory test on all lectures, 75% weight)

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