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Biology of Cells

Programme Specification: Part IA Biology of Cells

This course is taught jointly by the Departments of Biochemistry, Genetics, Plant Sciences and Zoology.

(The Biology of Cells and Computer Science options cannot be combined.)


  1. to introduce the basic concepts of cell biology, including cell structure, macromolecules, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, development and cell communication;
  2. to illustrate the experimental approaches and technologies which have led to our understanding of cell biology;
  3. to provide laboratory classes and on-line exercises complementary to the lecture topics to enable students to experience directly the experimental nature of the subject;
  4. to provide sufficient background to enable students to continue with more specialised courses in Part IB, such as Cell and Developmental Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology or Plant and Microbial Sciences.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should:

  1. have acquired an understanding of the major concepts in cell and molecular biology, and the experimental approaches taken to address them;
  2. be able to write clear and well-argued descriptions of these topics, based on the course material and textbook articles;
  3. be able to design, perform and analyse simple experiments in cell and molecular biology;
  4. be able to continue with Part IB courses which have substantial elements of cell and/or molecular biology.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, practical classes and web-based exercises.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • one unseen written examination, based on lecture material (for aims 1, 2 and 4 and learning outcomes 1, 2 and 4);
  • one unseen written examination, based on material from the practical classes (for aims 2-4 and learning outcomes 1, 3 and 4).

Courses of Preparation

Highly desirable:A Level Chemistry.

Recommended: Although A Level Biology is not a requirement, students who have not done Biology at A Level may wish to consult an A Level Biology text before they come up. An optional preliminary reading list is available on the NST website.

Additional Information

Further information on each subject is available in the Subject summary and on the Course Websites pages.