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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: 2023-24

Module summary

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 these macromolecular machines, and their underlying molecular mechanisms for converting chemical or electrochemical energy into directed movement. The module will introduce the physics of force generation and directed motion at the nanoscopic level, and provide an overview of the biophysical techniques used to study molecular machinery. The structure and mode of action of a range of exemplar molecular machines will be covered. We will also consider how bio-nanotechnology has inspired natural nano-scale machines.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

In this module, students will be introduced to exemplary 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. The student's understanding of these concepts will be assessed through an open essay covering a choice of topics. The background reading for the lectures and the workshop activities will provide students with the support required to plan their open essay. Workshop activities will include problem-solving, dissection of key papers and evaluation of experimental design. Workshops will also provide guidance on identifying further sources of information in the published literature for the essay.

Module learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this module will be able to:

Describe the physics of force generation and directed motion at the nanoscopic level

Compare and contrast the mechanisms used by molecular machines and motors to do mechanical work

Describe the structure and architecture of the macromolecular machines covered in the module

Discuss how chemical energy is transduced into physical motion by exemplar molecular machines and motors

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

Evaluate and appraise the primary literature as it relates to molecular motors and machines, and their current applications in bio-nanotechnology


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Marks for all summative assessments will be made available to you and your supervisor via e:vision. Feedback will be either individual or cohort-level, depending on the assessment format. You should take the opportunity to discuss your marks and feedback with your supervisor.

For exam-style summative assessment, model answers will be provided for all questions along with cohort-level feedback indicating how students answered questions in general. Marks achieved per question will be added to your script.

For coursework assessments (eg. reports or essays) you will receive individual feedback on your work. This will usually be in the form of a feedback sheet that will include suggestions for further improvement.

During the teaching of the module you will receive formative feedback that may be at a whole class or individual level. Such 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.