Cell and molecular biology
This module explores the fascinating world of living cells. You’ll learn about cell and tissue diversity in different organisms and the key structures and processes that enable cells to survive, grow, proliferate, move, and communicate. You’ll also explore laboratory techniques used to study cells and experience some of these techniques via online investigations throughout the module. In addition, you’ll use a bioinformatics database and develop your data-interpretation and problem-solving skills. Through your study, you’ll gain a better understanding of cell biology and its vital contribution to science and technology.
What you will study
This module develops your understanding of key cell biology concepts and helps you appreciate the bigger picture of how structures and processes inside cells work together. Throughout the module, you’ll learn to collect and interpret data from on-screen digital microscopes, databases, virtual on-screen investigations, and a remote access experiment with living cells.
The module comprises eleven topics:
Topic 1: The first cells
This topic introduces the module themes by exploring the earliest origins of cells and the processes from which life arose.
Topic 2: Cell diversity and structure
This topic introduces the diversity of cells among different organisms before examining cellular structures in detail. You’ll explore three-dimensional models of cells and use digital light, fluorescence and electron microscopes to better understand their structures.
Topic 3: Genes and genomes
This topic introduces the structure of genomes in different cell types before exploring the processes by which DNA is replicated and repaired. You’ll learn about genome sequencing in the laboratory and extract information from an online database that collates vast amounts of genomic data.
Topic 4: Gene expression
In this topic, you’ll explore how cells use the genetic information in DNA to produce functional proteins and RNAs. You’ll study the regulation of gene expression and learn about techniques used to measure it. You’ll also begin investigating the effects of a specific growth factor on cells by examining changes in gene expression.
Topic 5: Proteins – form and function
This topic explores how the structure of a protein defines its function. You’ll use the Protein Data Bank to explore the three-dimensional structure of proteins and continue your investigation into the effect of growth factor on gene expression by performing an immunoblot experiment.
Topic 6: Membranes, vesicles and cellular traffic
Here you will learn about the structure of cell membranes and how cells regulate the transport of different substances across them.
Topic 7 Cell signalling and communication:
This topic focuses on signalling between cells. In the final part of your investigation into the effect of the growth factor, you’ll monitor a specific cellular response. To do this, you’ll remotely access and collect data from a live cell experiment at our Milton Keynes campus.
Topic 8: Energy flow
In this topic, you’ll explore how the cells of different organisms exploit different energy sources to produce ATP, the vital form of chemical energy that drives cell processes.
Topic 9: Cell movements
Here you will learn about the role of the cytoskeleton in cell movement, from the internal movement of structures and organelles to cell migration and muscle contraction.
Topic 10: The life cycle of cells
This penultimate topic explores cell division, cell death and differentiation. You’ll learn to interpret flow cytometry data to study cell division.
Topic 11: Inheritance and genetic diversity
The final topic focuses on inheritance and the molecular mechanisms that underlie genetic diversity.
You will learn
As well as learning key cell biology concepts, you’ll develop your skills for further science study, including data interpretation, experimental investigation, numeracy, statistics, problem-solving, data-handling and presenting data, collaboration and communication.
There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.
However, you’ll need some knowledge of biology and appropriate study skills. You’d normally prepare by having passed one or both of the following OU level 1 modules:
Are you ready for S296?
You can access the module website 2–3 weeks before the module starts, so you can learn to navigate the website and organise your study plan. A module primer will contain information on basic concepts you should understand from OU level 1 study. You can use this primer to refresh your knowledge before starting this module or as a resource throughout your studies.
You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- course-specific module materials
- a workbook that supports your investigations
- audio and video content
- assignment details and submission section
- online tutorial access.
You’ll also have access to the OpenScience Laboratory, where you’ll conduct some of your experiments and perform a remote experiment.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.
It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.