BIOL231-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020

Foundations in Molecular Biology

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 February 2020
End Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 February 2020
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 29 May 2020


Principles of genetics, including the structure of RNA and DNA, molecular replication, transcription, translation, recombination and gene expression.

We will introduce you to fundamental principles of molecular biology as they relate to inheritance and expression of phenotypes. It will focus on the “central dogma” of molecular genetics: making DNA, RNA and proteins and conclude with and introduction to gene expression.

The course is 24 lecture/tutorial contact hours. You should expect this course to be a significant “step up” from stage 100.

Prepare for this by:
• reserving more time for self study (see below);
• taking responsibility for identifying what you don’t know and using all available contact time to seek answers;
• completing assigned readings and recorded material in advance of lecture;
• asking questions during lecture and in the laboratory;
• self-testing by using questions in the recommended textbooks;
• participating in a study group.

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • apply an understanding of the enzymology of DNA replication, transcription, translation and basic gene regulatory networks (assessment tasks: mid course test and final exam).
  • understand and interpret experimental evidence (assessment task: laboratory reports).
  • perform basic calculations for chemical solution preparation and dilutions and manipulations for setting up reactions in vitro (assessment task: laboratory flowsheets, laboratory reports, final exam).
  • compare the central dogma reactions in microbes to those in other forms of life (assessment tasks: mid course test and final exam).
  • formulate hypotheses to guide my own learning process (assessment task: laboratory flowsheets, laboratory reports, final exam).

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • I can express myself as a scientist. This will be important for any career in research, journalism or business where you will need to communicate science to both experts and lay readers. We will discuss writing laboratory reports to assist you in developing your abilities to demonstrate deep understanding of science.
  • I can competently synthesise information. In everyday life and in many job situations you will be required to read information from different sources, construct your own understanding and shape your own viewpoint. In lectures/tutorials and laboratory sessions we will discuss different sources of evidence and types of experiments and how they lead to current understanding.
  • I can competently analyse data. Important for research, police work as well as in a number of private-sector organizations. This skill will be further developed when we assist you to analyse the data we generate in the lab.
  • I can confidently ask questions, and do so in a culturally appropriate way. A key skill is to identify what you don’t know and have the confidence to ask for clarification. Moreover, it is important to know how to be effective in getting answers, and this often requires some knowledge of the culture of those whom you seek knowledge. It is expected that you will practice this skill during lecture/tutorial/laboratory sessions.
  • Competence in personal time management to ensure preparedness for tutorials and laboratories.
  • Ability to work to an irregular schedule. This will be developed by taking personal responsibility for recording the time and location of class activities and ensuring your ability to attend.



BCHM202, ENCH480, BIOL230

Equivalent Courses

BCHM202, ENCH480

Timetable Note

It is compulsory to wear a lab coat and safety glasses in the laboratory.

To purchase approved safety glasses, lab or coats go to
The collection point for purchases is inside the southern entry to the Ernest Rutherford Building, Monday to Friday between the hours 8.30 – 10.00 am and 1.30 – 3.00 pm for the first two weeks of the semester.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Jack Heinemann


Grant Pearce

Lab Technician

Thomas Evans


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Final Exam 30%
Laboratory assignments 30%
Course Test I 15%
Course Test II 15%
Tutorial 10%

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts

Watson, James D; Molecular biology of the gene ; Seventh edition; Pearson, 2014 (Required unless using Principles of Biochemistry by Lehninger instead. See Course Outline for more details).


Feedback from 2016

The materials provided helped me to understand what was required to succeed in this course.
Median student ratings: 4.00
Selected comments:
“sections not covered in the lectures or the tutorials were asked in detail in the test. even though there is readings on the content it was hard to understand without touching on it in the lectures” [Reply: contact time is too short to cover all required material. Reading is a normal and appropriate way to acquire competence in content and contact time emphasises learning skills. Where additional guidance is needed, please seek an appointment with an instructor or use spare time in the laboratory to ask questions.]
“After the Audition test I'm not entirely sure, seemed way different to what i thought was emphasised on.” [Reply: that is one of the reasons we offer this test, to provide feedback to students to optimise their study for the final exam.]

The organisation of this course helped me learn.
Median student ratings: 4.00
Selected comments: No comments

I found the workload was appropriate to the level of the course.
Median student ratings: 4.00
Selected comments:
“The content in XXX’s lectures were far too rushed, to the point that I got extremely overwelmed by it all.” [Reply: XXX no longer teaches in this course.]
“I liked that the credit was spread out over many assessments, so there wasn't too much pressure on one thing.”
“Large amount of learning.” [Action: no change.]

I found the assessments appropriate for the course.
Median student ratings: 4.00
Selected comments:
“The assignments really helped with our understanding - in particular, Jack's tutorial sessions were brilliant.”
“It was good having the revision [prerequisite] test and to have 2 opportunities to take it and enhance our knowledge and learning. It was also good having the full course test a few weeks prior to the exam to make sure we revised early.”
“i found the course test semi pointless as it was just like a shorter exam but a few weeks earlier.”
“The Audition test made me heavily second guess whether the study i did was worth it. I put a lot of work in and it seemed counter productive.” [Reply: The course ‘audition’ test has proven to significantly increase final exam performance.]
“As the content of this course was very difficult to get my head around, splitting it up into many smaller assignments, tests, lab reports etc. has definitely helped. It's nice to be able to show my understanding of the material across multiple assessment types, opposed to having a heavily weighted exam.” [Action: no change.]
“The tutorials were really helpful for revision/learning or looking further into the content.” [Action: no change.]

Where I sought feedback on my assessments, I found it helpful.
Median student ratings: 4.00
Selected comments:
“I didn't receive much feedback on my 5% lab report, so I wasn't sure how to improve upon it for my 20% report. However the 15% [prerequisite and audition] tests which we marked together as a class afterwards were very helpful.” [Action: no change.]
“Would have been nice if our first lab reports had more detailed comments to work from in our second lab report.” [Action: Laboratory assessment revised for 2017.]

Additional Course Outline Information

Academic integrity

It is essential that you are aware that plagiarism is considered a very serious offence by the Academic community, the University and the School of Biological Sciences. Plagiarism is defined as taking content from another work or author and presenting it, without attribution, as if it is your own work. Content here includes text (sentences or major parts of sentences), display items (graphs and tables), and overall structure (the detailed sequence of ideas). Plagiarism includes:
• re-use of previous assignments (even if each individual sentence has been rephrased to say the same thing in different words, if the overall structure is re-used)  
• copying of another student’s work (with or without their consent)
• the unreferenced use of published material or material from the internet e.g. cutting and pasting of paragraphs or pages into an essay.
For most pieces of in-term assessment you will be given information concerning the use of direct and indirect quotes from previously published work. If you are in any doubt about appropriate use of published material, please speak with a member of academic staff. If you are still unsure what plagiarism is, then seek advice.

It is a School policy that courses may request you submit work electronically for subsequent analysis of originality using Turnitin. Students agree that by taking courses in BIOL, required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the site.

Assessment and grading system

A+ 90% or above
A 85 – 90
A- 80 – 84
B+ 75 – 79
B 70 – 74
B- 65 – 69
C+ 60 – 64
C 55 – 59
C- 50 – 54

A restricted pass (R) may be awarded to those who are close to a pass (i.e. an overall score of 48-49.9%) AND who have achieved at least a 40% overall score in both in-course assessment and tests/exams. If an R grade is awarded you gain credit for the course but cannot continue into papers that require this course as a pre-requisite. NB. The R grade is only available at 100 and 200 level - it cannot be awarded for third year papers.

Failing grades:   D   40-49             E  0–39


What if I have written more than the word or page limit?
If there is a word limit on an assignment, it is usually there to stop you doing too much work and to encourage you to write succinctly.  It also makes things easier to assess.  You can be up to 10% over without too much worry, but if the length increases beyond that your mark may suffer due to failure to follow the requirements.  If you find yourself way over the word limit have a chat to the lecturer concerned about how to trim your assignment to an acceptable length.

Requests for extensions

Reports and assignments should be handed in on time. Extensions may be granted if you have a valid reason. If you require an extension, you should request one from the course co-ordinator (or the lecturer responsible for marking the work), with as much notice as possible.  Please do this BEFORE the deadline for the assignment. If you have been given an extension you should hand the work DIRECTLY to the course coordinator (do not put it in the drop box as it may not be cleared after the due date).
If an extension has not been granted:
• work must be handed in by the due date to gain full credit
• work handed in up to 7 days after the deadline will be marked, but the marks will be discounted 25% before they are recorded to the student's credit
• any work handed in more than 7 days after the deadline date will not be marked or earn credit.

What do I do if I’m sick?

What do I do if I have to miss something or if my performance was impaired?
If you feel that illness, injury, bereavement or other extenuating circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from completing an item of assessment worth 10% or more of total course assessment or if these circumstances affected your performance in such assessments, you should apply for Special Consideration. Applications for Special Consideration should be submitted via the Examinations Office website and notify the course co-ordinator within five days of the assessment or its due date. If this is for medical reasons you should visit a doctor within 24 hours of the assessment (application form available on-line or from the Student Health Centre). The Special Consideration provisions are intended to assist students who have covered the work of a course but have been prevented by illness or other critical circumstances from demonstrating their mastery of the material or skills at the time of assessment – they do not excuse you from doing the assessment within a reasonable time agreed with the course co-ordinator. You should expect to be required to submit additional work if you miss a major assignment (e.g. a field trip for which a major write-up is required).

In rare cases you may not be able to complete an assessment or attend a field trip, because of involvement in international or national representative sport or cultural groups. In such cases you should also apply for Special Consideration. Please review the Special Considerations policy because very few kinds of activities will be eligible for consideration (e.g. holiday trips, birthday parties etc. are not given special status in the University policy).

Students prevented by extenuating circumstances from completing the course after the final date for withdrawing, may apply for Special Consideration for late discontinuation of the course. Applications must be submitted to the Examinations Office within five days of the end of the main examination period for the semester.

For further details on Special Consideration applications, please refer to the Examinations Office website

What if I fail part of the course?

In BIOL, we require a satisfactory level of achievement in both the theoretical aspects of the discipline and in practical activities. This means you must attend all class activities and submit all items of assessment unless you have a very good reason not to (e.g. medical reasons). A student must attain an average score of at least 40% for in-course assessments (e.g. assignments, reports) and an average score of at least 40% in the exam and/or test, AND score at least 50% overall for the course, to be awarded a passing grade. See course outline for clarification of the assessment items included in each category and ask the coordinator if you are still unsure.

What’s the best way to give feedback?

We welcome constructive feedback at all times – help us to make this a valuable course for you.  We endeavour to remain approachable at all times.  If you would rather give feedback anonymously, please use the on-line course survey or talk to lab demonstrators, or your class rep (who will all report back to the staff-student liaison committee that includes a representative from each of the undergraduate classes). Class representatives will be selected from each class at the start of course.

What’s the best way to complain?

If you feel you have not been fairly treated during this course, please raise the issue with the lecturer or course co-ordinator in the first instance.  Other avenues include your class rep., who can raise issues anonymously, or the UCSA education coordinator.

Where to submit and collect work

All assignments should be placed in the designated collection box in the foyer of the 2nd floor of the School of Biological Sciences (near the main office), unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. All assignments must be accompanied by a cover sheet signed by you stating that the submitted work is not plagiarised. Cover sheets are available on top of the collection boxes, or you can download one from the Biology website (under Undergraduate). In addition, you may also be asked to submit your work electronically (via Learn) for analysis in Turnitin. You will be given instructions on how to do this in the assignment handout.

Marked assignments can be collected from the Secretaries' Office, unless directed otherwise by the course co-ordinator. Teaching staff will endeavour to return work as soon as possible, and should contact you if there are likely to be any delays that will prevent return within the maximum 4-week timeframe.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $900.00

International fee $4,250.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL231 Occurrences

  • BIOL231-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020