BIOL457-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024

Macromolecular Evolution & Engineering

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2024
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 28 July 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 29 September 2024


The primary goal of this course is to assist student development as scholars and advance their research skills in fields of science that use molecular evolution and molecular design (i.e. synthetic biology) to address a wide diversity of biological questions and problems. The course focuses on the critical evaluation of scientific methodology and how such methodology can be applied to engineer new biomolecules.

In this course, we will examine how (and why) nature has evolved its repertoire of biological macromolecules (DNA, RNA, and proteins) to perform the functions of life. The last 50 years has seen an explosion in our knowledge of how these macromolecules function. Importantly, we are now able to design and build our own macromolecules for bespoke purposes—for example, enzymes to access to new synthetic methods, proteins as biosensors, and the design and engineering of new biosynthetic pathways in cells to produce biofuels. Thus, in parallel to learning how nature has evolved its macromolecule repertoire, we will also explore how we design new macromolecules; that is, synthetic biology. Within this context, we will consider a broader understanding of the social and cultural sensitivities to genetic engineering and use of native New
Zealand genetic diversity.

During the course our aim is to encourage and provide advice and feedback to enable you to develop skills in written and oral communication, and in the efficient acquisition of scientific information. The course will involve group discussion, presentation of scientific papers, and preparation and critique of a review article.

Recommended preparatory course(s): BIOL331/BCHM301 (Biochemistry 3, or BCHM305, or BCHM306) and/or Protein Science (BCHM403), which is designed to be a compatible course run in S1. In addition, one from the following is highly recommended: BIOL313 (Microbiology), BIOL333 (Molecular Genetics) (or equivalent, as determined by the coordinator).

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop:
  • A detailed understanding of how evolution selects for particular functions in a biomolecule
    (RNA/DNA/Proteins) (assessment task: preparation of method summaries)
  • The ability to analyse and critically interpret experimental data and published research (assessment task: data analysis exercises, oral presentations, exam).
  • Skills in the verbal and written presentation of scientific ideas (assessment task: oral presentation, practical write-up, review and proposal).
  • An understanding of the scientific practice and principles of evolution and macromolecular science, and an appreciation of why the evolution of macromolecules is important in the new field of synthetic biology (assessment task: oral presentations, review, proposal and exam).
  • A bicultural understanding relating to the area of genetic modification (gene engineering) and gene piracy in the context of New Zealand (the discovery and use of New Zealand specific fauna and flora in accessing new and novel genetic diversity) including recognizing the knowledge that comes from Maori about these species and sharing any knew knowledge we gain (assessment task: scenario and consultation).
  • Synthesise and critically evaluate primary scientific literature to generate a clear and concise argument in support of a perspective (assessment task: evaluation of a research paper).

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • Experience in analysing protein science and evolutionary data generated using a variety of methods. There will also be the opportunity to gain experience in carrying out some of these experiments and using the equipment. We will have tutorials looking at the analysis of protein science data, and you will be given the opportunity to analyse novel data.
  • Critical synthesis of 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 tutorials we will discuss recent macromolecular engineering and evolution research papers in a group environment and this will develop your abilities to assess the quality of the information, how methods are applied to research, and develop skills in working in a collaborative environment (providing a sense of Whanaungatanga).
  • Verbal presentation. In most careers in science the ability to present findings clearly in verbal form is likely to be critical. In tutorial sessions we will provide clear guidance on what makes a good presentation and you will test these skills in small group sessions.

    Critically competent X
    Employable, innovative and enterprising X
    Biculturally competent and confident X
    Engaged with the community
    Globally aware X


Subject to approval of the Head of School. RP: BIOL331/BCHM301 (Biochemistry 3) and/or Protein Science (BIOL435/BCHM403), which is designed to be a compatible course run in S1.  In addition, one from the following is highly recommended: BIOL313 (Microbiology) or BIOL333 (Molecular Genetics) (or equivalent, as determined by course co-ordinator).

Recommended Preparation

BIOL331/BCHM301 (Biochemistry 3) and/or Protein Science (BIOL435/BCHM403), which is designed to be a compatible course run in S1.  In addition, one from the following is highly recommended: BIOL313 (Microbiology) or BIOL333 (Molecular Genetics) (or equivalent, as determined by course co-ordinator).

Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 14:00 - 15:00 Jack Erskine 441
15 Jul - 21 Jul
Tutorial A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 13:00 - 15:00 -
Psychology - Sociology 251 (19/7, 16/8, 13/9-20/9, 18/10)
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 22 Sep
14 Oct - 20 Oct

Timetable Note

The class will meet on Friday's from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. in Psychology-Sociology 251 (note that timetabling may change this so check). The schedule of seminars are as follows:

Seminar 1 - Protein Engineering 1: engineering thermal stability - Grant Pearce - 19th July
Seminar 2 - Protein Engineering 2: engineering membrane proteins - Tim Allison - 26th July
Seminar 3 - Protein Engineering 2: designing enzymes - Jodie Johnston - 2nd August
Seminar 4 - Molecular Adaptation (assessed) - Ren Dobson - 9th August
Seminar 5 - Protein Engineering 4: Antibody therapy - Vanessa Morris - 16th August
Seminar 6 - Biomedical research - Christoph Goebl - 21st August

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Renwick Dobson


Grant Pearce , Vanessa Morris , Jodie Johnston , Timothy Allison and Christoph Goebl


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Final Exam 45%
Research talk 10%
Assignment 45%

Textbooks / Resources

Collecting readings for this course is your responsibility. For set seminars, readings will be provided in electronic form (available on Learn or emailed) or in a form that may be photocopied. All course announcements will be distributed by email and/or announced on Learn or in session.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,145.00

* 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 BIOL457 Occurrences

  • BIOL457-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024