Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Chemical Basis of Biology
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 2 x 1 hour lectures per week (22 hours)
Practical 5 x 4 hour practicals (20 hours)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Practical 1. Lab. Report.  10%
Semester Assessment Practical 2. Lab. Report.  10%
Semester Assessment Practical 3. Lab. Report.  10%
Semester Assessment Practical 4. Lab. Report.  10%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Short answer question paper.  60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Identify geometric and stereo isomers of organic compounds and to apply the rules to assign the correct nomenclature to simple examples of these types of isomers.

2. Identify the major acidic and basic groups in biological systems and recognise the relevance of their pK values and contribution to buffering.

3. Review the basic background physical chemistry to bioenergetics and electron transport processes in nature.

4. Describe basic analytical techniques and analyse results from these for the identification of simple compounds.

Brief description

The module will cover the following chemical topics, with examples of relevant biological phenomena: acid-base equilibria, stereochemistry, thermodynamics and kinetics.


A description of bonding in organic molecules will introduce a study of structural and geometric isomerism. The conformations of simple carbon compounds and their systematic nomenclature will be considered and the importance of this form of isomerism in natural compound will be emphasised.

A survey of stereoisomerism and optical activity will include both the D and L system and the R and S nomenclature. Fischer projection formulae, separation of enantiomers and the concept of symmetry will be described. Again the relevance to natural compounds will be emphasised.

A study of biologically important functional groups will lead to a review of the concept of pH, acids, bases and buffers drawing particularly on the examples of amino acids. Other aspects of physical chemistry will include energetics, binding of ligands and electrochemistry, again the relevance to biological processes emphasised and with examples drawn from biology. The topics of chemical equilibria and reaction kinetics will be linked with a simple consideration of enzymes and their role in biological reactions.

The major analytical methods used in biochemistry including various forms of spectroscopy and the use of isotopes will be described.

Although the major emphasis will be on organic chemistry aspects of bio-inorganic chemistry may be discussed.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Collection and scrutiny of data in terms of quality and quantity. Data interpretation.
Communication Listening skills for the lectures and subsequent discussion in practical classes. Students will develop effective written communication skills in examinations and coursework preparation.
Improving own Learning and Performance Outside the formal contact hours, students will be expected to research materials, manage time and meet deadlines. The directed study elements will provide opportunity for students to explore their own learning styles and preferences and identify their needs and barriers to learning. Students will be able to review and monitor their progress and plan for improvement of personal performance.
Information Technology Accessing the web for information sources and using databases to find primary literature.
Personal Development and Career planning
Problem solving Practical classes will allow students to gain experience in designing, executing and interpreting data in biochemistry.
Research skills Students will research topics beyond the depth and scope of the lecture material using both directed and independent study. Information from a variety of sources will be the object of scrutiny and comment. Practical classes will allow the development of key biological research skills at an early stage of their academic careers.
Subject Specific Skills Subject specific concepts relating to biochemistry will be developed. Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of chemical principles as applied to molecular biology, using commonplace examples.
Team work


This module is at CQFW Level 4