Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 1 x 1 hour workshops
Seminars / Tutorials 5 x 4 hour practical sessions


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 Hours   Coursework  Continuous assessment of practical work  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmission of failed coursework  Resubmission or alternative as decided by exam board  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Interpret written experimental procedures.
  • Demonstrate ability to make quantitative measurements of parameters that are routinely encountered in practical biochemistry.
  • Use properly a range of apparatus and apply a range of techniques that are commonly used in biochemical experimentation.
  • Identify hazards that are routinely encountered in the laboratory and describe the precautions that must be taken.
  • Present experimental data in approved format.


Experience and skill in practical work are of importance to any potential biological scientist and certainly for any student intending to pursue a laboratory-based career. This module aims to give students the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to enable them to understand and interpret experimental protocols, and to carry out practical work to an acceptable level of accuracy with a variety of biological materials. This, together with the need to keep a careful laboratory notebook and the exercise of presenting one of the experiments in the style of a thesis, will give them useful preparation for future laboratory work including their research project in the third year.

Brief description

A number of experiments, outlined below, will be offered. These will have a rating in units and generally one unit equates to one practical session. The students, working in pairs, will be expected to complete a given number of units during the module. The experimental work will be organized so that each student has the opportunity to experience a broad range of experimental procedures. Experiments offered are designed to familiarize the student with the laboratory facilities available and the range of equipment in routine use and, at the same time, develop qualitative and quantitative skills.


An introductory session will deal with essential information about the module. This will include aspects of laboratory safety, COSHH regulations, use of equipment and the handling and presentation of experimental data.
Experiments can be grouped under the following general headings:
1. Isolation of biological materials.
Purification of the periplasmic enzyme, alkaline phosphatase from Escherichia coli and of cytochrome c from heart tissue make use of ion exchange and molecular exclusion chromatography. Isolation of trehalose from yeast and glycogen from rat liver both exploit differential solvent extraction and isolation of D-?-tocopherol from egg yolk provides experience of partition chromatography.
2. Analytical techniques.
The isolation of these biological materials leads logically to the use of a range of different techniques for analysis and determination of purity. These include various procedures leading to spectrophotometric measurements, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of proteins and TLC. Enzymes, their assay and characterization and kinetic studies also provide and exercise in quantitative spectrophotometry.
Other experiments, designed to provide `hands on? experience of specialized equipment, include gas-liquid chromatography of fatty acids, radioactive monitoring of the products of an enzymic reaction, assessment of the metabolic versatility of bacteria and metabolic pathway selection by respirometry, fluorimetric analysis of protein-ligand binding and the use of endonucleases in DNA fingerprinting.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Practical work will involve calculations using acquired data.
Communication The production of balanced practical reports. Listening skills for the workshops and subsequent discussion in practical classes.
Improving own Learning and Performance Outside the formal contact hours, students will be expected to research materials, manage time and meet deadlines.
Information Technology Accessing the web for information sources and using databases to find primary literature.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will gain confidence in their ability to evaluate biological problems and objectively assess the quality of proposed solutions.
Problem solving Practical classes will allow students to gain experience in designing, executing, interpreting data and writing-up assessed biochemical and chemical experiments.
Research skills Students will research topics beyond the depth and scope of the provided 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 Students will gain experience of issues related to the planning, execution and reporting of experiments. They will be able to find, understand, modify and utilize existing protocols from the literature, and report methodologies as appropriate for a variety of media.
Team work Students will work in pairs/small groups during practical sessions. They will need to discuss their experimental design and work effectively as a small team in practical classes.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Reed, R., Holmes, D., Weyers, J. & Jones, A. (2003) Practical Skills in Biomolecular Sciences 2nd Pearson Education Ltd. Primo search

Boyer, R. (2000) Modern Experimental Biochemistry 3 Benjamin Cummings Primo search Price, NC, Dwek, RA, Ratcliffe, RG & Wormald MR (2001) Principles and Problems in Physical Chemistry for Biochemists 3 Oxford University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5