Software Engineering (3 Years) [BSc]

Current Topics in Biology

Unit code: UCIL20882
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit?: Y




The aim of this unit is to introduce you to topical areas of bioscience, building from basic knowledge towards engaging with current research literature.


Entertainment or news media frequently sensationalise biological and biomedical stories, either oversimplifying the topic or through inaccurate reporting (‘Spicy diet can beat dementia’ anybody?).

This unit considers topical issues within biology, exploring the science behind the headlines to help you develop an informed opinion, and to discuss potential future directions of selected topics.

Topics will include:

  • The basics of DNA …and beyond
  • Development and stem cells
  • Precision medicine
  • Human brain function
  • Microbes and infectious disease
  • Conservation biology


If you have an interest in life sciences, but haven’t had the opportunity to study it at a higher level, then this is the unit for you. You will work alongside students from a wide range of disciplines.

Teaching and learning methods

  • 18 x 1 hour (lectures and seminars)
  • 2 x 1 hour information sessions including assessment preparation
  • 1 x 1 hour video presentation
  • Group project

Learning outcomes

  • On completion of the unit you will be able to:
  • Recognise the basic bioscience underpinning current topical issues
  • Be equipped to develop an informed opinion about current biology issues
  • Work with a team of students from different disciplines to create a video presentation explaining an aspect of bioscience research 


(UCIL 20882 - 10 credit unit)

Assessment methods

  • Other - 20%
  • Written exam - 40%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 40%

Assessment Further Information

  • Short note exam (40%)
  • Coursework assignments (40%)
  • Group activity (20%)


Prerequisites: None required. 

Students from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, with the exception of Psychology, are not eligible to take this unit.


Topics covered in previous years:

  • The basics of DNA...and beyond: what have we learnt from sequencing the human genome?
  • Development and Stem cells: how does the fertilised egg become a fully formed adult body? What are stem cells and what are their potential medical uses?
  • Precision Medicine: tailoring drug treatments for individuals. Why do some patients respond better than others to the same treatment?
  • Conservation Biology: what is biodiversity, can we protect it and why should we care? Should we worry about invasive species?
  • The Human Brain: how do nerve cells communicate? Understanding neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
  • Microbes and infectious disease: what issues are the most pressing for microbiologists today? Understanding flu, superbugs (MRSA) and sexually-transmitted diseases. Just how important are our gut bacteria?

Study hours

  • Lectures - 18 hours
  • Tutorials - 2 hours
  • Work based learning - 1 hours
  • Independent study hours - 79 hours

Teaching staff

Ruth Grady - Unit coordinator

▲ Up to the top