MSc Molecular Medicine

The course in detail

The five scientific speciality pathways are open to science and medicine graduates. This page contains information on our pathways. Medical graduates may also be interested in our:Clinical Applications Pathway specifically for medical graduates

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The University of Sheffield one-year MSc in Molecular Medicine is taught in the Medical School of one of the top 100 universities in the world. The course is designed for both animal/human biology and clinical graduates. We will bring you up to date with the latest technical and scientific advances in biomedical science and therapeutic design and in particular we will show you how to use the latest technology to answer research questions for yourself. Dr Martin Nicklin (the course lead) explains the background and content of the course here.

Several of the faculty who teach on the course have their own spinout biotechnology companies and we use speakers from the pharmaceutical industry to put our teaching into a commercial context. We also have strong contributions from our practicing clinical colleagues from all departments of the School of Medicine and further afield.

The taught part of the course provides you with an understanding of both the background and the scientific methods that are used to investigate human diseases. We emphasise how experiments and experimental programmes are actually designed and interpreted. We aim to present the most recent scientific developments in each subject area. The course is continually updated to improve its delivery and to reflect changes in the emphasis of biomedical science.

Modules and specialist pathways

The course begins with six core modules that are appropriate to all specialities.

We then offer you one of four specialist pathways: Genetic Mechanisms, Microbes and Infection, Cancer and Experimental Medicine. Students decide on their pathway before the optional parts of the course begin in February. You don't apply for the pathway, but for the whole course. You only need to decide ten weeks into the course when you choose your project, which will also be associated with a particular pathway. We don't run quotas for pathways, so you will have a free choice.


The core contains essential training for all areas of molecular medical research. It runs from late September until late January (with a break for the winter holiday).

Core modules:

From Genome to Gene Function

[15 Credits]

This module illustrates the connection between identifying a gene by its position, discovering single gene defects and investigating the function of genes and proteins.

  • Detecting gene defects within the modern framework of the Human Genome Project
  • Contemporary methods to study human gene function
  • Source high-throughput databases from human and model species

This module will be assessed by an essay assignment.

Martin Nicklin
Module Leader

School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX
Tel: +44 (0)114 215 9541

2020/21 timetable

Modulating Immunity

[10 Credits]

This module introduces you to recent developments in immunity and recombinant molecules that are used to modulate the human immune system therapeutically.

  • Introduction to innate and adaptive immunity
  • Control of immune responses
  • Making recombinant proteins
  • Examples of recombinant proteins as immune therapeutics
  • New strategies for vaccine generation

Assessment will be by an assignment.

Dr Helen Marriott
Module Leader

School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

2020/21 timetable

Research Literature Review

[15 Credits]

This module offers you training in critical analysis of the literature and in writing a review of a field of work.

Learning aims:

In this module, students will develop a variety of scientific literacy skills such as effective bibliography searches, critical reading, essay planning and writing without inadvertently plagiarising sources. They will be expected to learn or improve these skills through practicing them under supervision.

In addition, students will learn specialised background scientific knowledge in the subject area of their future MSc laboratory project.

Module contents

The module starts at the beginning of October and ends at the beginning of February. It is split into 6 teaching and study periods, or calendar blocks. Each block focuses on the development or reinforcing of specific skills or on the completion of definite tasks.

The first three blocks are short periods of less than one week each in October and November. In this part of the module, learning of basic scientific literacy skills takes place mainly in taught sessions. The classes are a mix of lectures and tutorials in which students carry out bibliographical searches, essay planning and writing tasks.

In the second part of the module (Blocks 4 to 6, November to February), students will put to use the skills learned previously by writing a review of the scientific literature relevant to their research project. They will be expected to carry out a bibliographical research on the background to their MSc laboratory project and to write a review of the scientific articles that they will have read. The students will complete these tasks on their own but under guidance of their laboratory project supervisors, who will provide advice and feedback at two important stages in the preparation and writing of the review.


The module will be assessed through the marking of the literature review, which the students will submit at the beginning of February.

The marking of the review will take in account the bibliographic searching and writing skills as well as the scientific knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Dr Lisa Parker
Module Leader
Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease
School of Medicine
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX
Tel: +44 (0)114 215 9544

2020/21 timetable

Human Disease Genetics

[10 Credits]

This module  illustrates the principles underlying recent research that has uncovered genetic components in several common diseases.

  • Genetics in cancer
  • Genetics in cardiovascular diseases
  • Genetics in endocrine disorders
  • Genetics in arthritis
  • Chromosomal disorders
  • Genetics in coagulation disorders
  • Genetics in neurological diseases
  • Genetics in bone diseases
  • Pharmacogenetics

Assessment will be by an assignment

Professor Sheila Francis
Module Leader

School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

2020/21 timetable

Human Gene Bioinformatics

[15 credits]

This module is a computer practical class, teaching you how to extract, manipulate and interpret DNA and protein sequence from public sources using web-based software.

The module is a practical guide to web-based sequence analysis.  We focus on human genes and web-based genome browsers.

You will learn:

  • how to obtain and analyse genomic, mRNA and protein sequences
  • how to compare individual data with public data
  • ways to present sequences and sequence alignments
  • to design primers for PCR for sequencing cDNA and genomic DNA
  • to differentiate unknown from known variants in human sequences
  • to impute functional similarity and loss of function from sequences
  • to create simple bacterial expression clones
  • to design tools (currenlty CAS9/CRISPR) to disrupt genes in cells

Assessment will be by a written assignment, divided into (probably ten) discrete tasks, based on an individualised set of data.  You will present the results of your analysis of your sequences, your proposals for discovering mutations and for manipulating specific DNA sequences.

Learning consists of discovering why these tasks are useful and how to do them.  I will give brief explanatory talks for each topic and provide an up-to-date booklet that explains how to do the tasks and their relevance.  Expert demonstrators will help you to learn how to perform the tasks.  You will work with shared practice data sets in 40 hours of computer classes.  We will encourage you to assemble into learning groups.

Dr Martin Nicklin
Module Leader, School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

2020/21 timetable

Lab Practice and Stats

[15 credits]

This module offers you training in essential laboratory operations, lab safety and etiquette, keeping records and statistical analysis.

This unit aims to introduce the student to the basic practical laboratory techniques that they will need to undertake a laboratory based MSc project in biomedical science.

The unit will involve training in safety, record keeping, the use of the common laboratory equipment, basic techniques and important principles. It will also include training and practice in common maths and statistics. The unit consists of lectures, tutorials, practical exercises, problem solving classes and self directed learning.

Dr Gareth Richards
Module Leader

School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX

The Student Experience

Over the past thirteen years, we have taught over 600 full-time students from 55 different countries.

The course includes:

  • Taught two-week modules that are continuously assessed through essays and exams,
  • Self-directed learning modules that are assessed through dissertations
  • Twenty weeks of a practical project within a laboratory, which is assessed through a dissertation,
  • Continuous assessment and constructive criticism on all work throughout the year

MEDPG Heidenreich Report 19-20

What do you need to know before you start?

We assume that our students have a general background in the molecular biology of eukaryotes. Test yourself. Can you get a high score on our quiz?

We strongly recommend that you prepare your understanding of how the control of gene expression, from the regulation of genes to the modification of proteins, works in human (or other animal) cells. We particularly recommend the textbooks The Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts and colleagues or Molecular Cell Biology by Lodish and colleagues.

Please don't neglect to do this preparation otherwise you will be at a disadvantage when you begin the course, particularly so compared with students who do know this material.

Try our quiz

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 14 July 2021

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