Accessibility statement

Molecular Machinery in Action - BIO00067H

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  • Department: Biology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Christoph Baumann
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

The module will begin with an introduction to the physics of force generation and directed motion at the nanoscopic level, and a brief overview of the biophysical techniques used to study molecular machinery. The module will address the structure and mode of action of molecular machines involved in the synthesis of ATP and biopolymers (DNA, RNA and polypeptides), transport across membranes (pumps, channels and secretion/efflux pumps), translocation along and unwinding of nucleic acids (helicases), and packaging of DNA into viruses. The module will also include a detailed appraisal of actin- and tubulin-based molecular motors involved in muscle contraction (myosin) and intracellular motion (myosin, kinesin and dynein). The module will finish by providing an overview of how bionanotechnology has harnessed natural nano-scale machines, and been inspired by them in imaginable and unimaginable ways.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

Cells contain macromolecular machines composed of complex protein and/or nucleic acid assemblies that are essential for biological function. In the last decade there have been significant advances in our understanding of both the structures of such macromolecular machines, and their underlying molecular mechanisms for converting chemical or electrochemical energy into directed movement. In this module, students will be introduced to some of these macromolecular machines through dissection of key research papers in lectures and workshops. Students will learn how the mechanical action of these machines has been probed using biochemical and biophysical techniques, and how the resulting data were analysed to elucidate their mechanisms. Students will also gain an appreciation of how bionanotechnology has been inspired by and directly harnessed some of these natural nano-scale machines.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module a student will be able to:

1. Describe the physics of force generation and directed motion at the nanoscopic level
2. Compare and contrast the mechanisms used by molecular machines and motors to do mechanical work
3. Describe the structure and architecture of the macromolecular machines covered in the module
4. Discuss how chemical energy is transduced into physical motion by exemplar molecular machines and motors
5. Describe the bulk and single-molecule techniques used to probe the kinetics, energetics and mechanics of molecular machinery, and critically assess the data obtained using these techniques
6. Evaluate and appraise the primary literature as it relates to molecular motors and machines, and their current applications in bionanotechnology



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Marks for open assessments will be made available to you and your supervisor via e:vision. Individual comments will be added to your script and/or on separate summary feedback document. Histograms of module marks will be posted on the notice boards outside the Biology Student Services office. You should take the opportunity to discuss your marks and feedback with your supervisor.


During the teaching of the module you will receive feedback that may be at a whole class or individual level. Forms of feedback may include: model answers and discussion of workshop questions, summaries of performance in practicals, VLE-based quizzes, individual spoken comments during workshops, individual written comments on formative work.  

Indicative reading

These are available through the VLE module site.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.