BIOL231-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021

Foundations in Molecular Biology

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 22 February 2021
End Date: Sunday, 27 June 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 7 March 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 14 May 2021


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: problem sets and test/exam).
  • Understand and interpret experimental evidence (assessment task: laboratory assignments).
  • Perform basic calculations for chemical solution preparation and dilutions and manipulations for setting up reactions in vitro (assessment task: laboratory assignments, final exam).
  • Compare the central dogma reactions in microbes to those in other forms of life (assessment tasks: problem sets, test/exam).
  • Formulate hypotheses to guide my own learning process (assessment task: laboratory assignments, test/exam).
  • Manage my time to achieve better outcomes (assessment task: prepare a time schedule for the semester).
  • Achieve a higher competence in self-guided learning through participation in class (reflecting on communication in a cultural context) and completing required reading assignments (analytical, critical thinking and problem solving in diverse contexts) (assessment: test/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 or lab 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.
Disposable gloves are available in the laboratory for those who might need them.

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Jack Heinemann


Grant Pearce

Lab Technician

Thomas Evans


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Semester work schedule 3%
Final Exam 25%
Laboratory assignments 32%
Course Test I 10%
Course Test II 20% Mid term test
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).

Campbell, Biology: A global approach 11e

Note that Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry 6th Ed., Garrett and Grisham Biochemistry, and Prescott’s Microbiology 9th Ed (Willey, Sherwood and Woolverton), are also useful because they are used in other similar courses (e.g. BCHM201-301 and BIOL330). If you are a biochemistry or microbiology student and not planning to take more genetics courses, then you may wish to buy only the core text for your programme. Some material will be taken from Snyder and Champness Molecular Genetics of Bacteria, 3rd Ed.  All three texts and others are available in the library.

Reading and study

Readings are assigned by individual lecturers. Students should note that in the Science Faculty the average student is expected use approximately 3.2 hours of additional study for each contact hour (i.e., lectures and labs) at the 200-level. In other words, readings and self-study opportunities cannot be repeated in lecture. That is, allow 108 hours of good self-study for this course.  It is your responsibility to make the best use of contact time, such as spare time during the laboratory, to achieve an understanding of the material. (Leaving the lab early is a lost opportunity.)


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.]

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $910.00

International fee $4,438.00

* 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

  • BIOL231-21S1 (C) Semester One 2021