You are viewing this course for 2021-22 entry. 2022-23 entry is also available.
Molecular and Cellular Basis of Human Disease
School of Biosciences,
Faculty of Science
Whole genome sequencing has opened up a new era of studies into the molecular and cellular basis of human disease.
The new molecular genetic and cellular approaches to understand human disease and disease processes in model systems are well established in our department, with some of the world’s foremost research in these areas being conducted in Sheffield.
As the research base broadens and industry begins to adopt new technologies, the demand for this type of specialist training is strong across the healthcare industry and academia.
We accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies. Find out more on the Medical School's website.
- Literature Review
This unit involves an in-depth survey of the current literature relevant to the student's laboratory research project. It runs before the practical laboratory commences in order to give the student the academic background necessary to complete the laboratory work successfully. Students will carry out an exhaustive search of material relevant to their project using the resources of the University, including appropriate databases and specialist search engines, as well as paper-based resources in the University Library. The unit involves primarily private study by the student under the direction of the project supervisor who will meet the student at regular intervals to ensure satisfactory progress.30 credits
- Research Project
The module aims to provide students with experience of conducting a research project, and develop analytical and organisational skills required for a career in science. Students undertake a research project which reflects the research activities in the Department/Faculty/University. Projects will be supervised by a member of the academic staff, although students may have additional contact with various staff contributing to their training. Students will gain experience of experimental design, and in execution, collation, interpretation and presentation of scientific data.60 credits
Assessment of the project will be based on a written dissertation, an evaluation of the research skills developed during the tenure of the project, including keeping a lab book, and delivery of an individual poster presentation.
- Critical Analysis of Current Science
This module is designed to develop the student's ability to read and understand the scientific literature relating to their own research area and also enable them to integrate their own work into the wider scientific field. The module consists of the following components; a seminar and seminar analysis programme designed to develop student skills in listening, understanding and appraising scientific research presented by external invited speakers; contribution, preparation and presentation of journal clubs reporting on the literature published in the field of biomedical science. In the latter component, students will be expected to demonstrate critical analysis skills, which will be encouraged through questions and discussions in classes. Each component is assessed through formal examination and oral presentation.15 credits
- Ethics and Public Awareness of Science
Those working within public health need to be familiar with secondary data sources that support research, management and practice. This module will consider the main types of secondary data - relating to demography, epidemiology, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Strengths, uses, interpretation and limitations of secondary data sources will be examined, assessing these with regard to completeness, accuracy, relevance and timeliness. Students will explore these issues in connection with a case study for a specific country. Scenario planning, confidentiality and the use of computers are other key topics that are illustrated and explored within the module.The module will begin with an introduction to the areas in which legislation impinges on biomedical research. We will then proceed to analyse the processes by which such legislation is made including, especially, the ethical bases for such legislation. To do this we will introduce the students to the philosophical bases of ethical thought and get them to analyse existing laws to discover the ethics that underlies these laws. The students will then be asked to discuss the ethics of specific topics in the form of a formal debate. In addition, we examine how society perceives science and how the process of science itself works and how this influences scientists’ abilities to present their work to the wider community.15 credits
- Practical Cell Biology
The practical unit will provide students with experience of practical cell biology. Students will be given the opportunity to establish and optimise ELISA-based assays for fundamental cellular processes, specifically the endocytic pathway. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development, execution and interpretation of experimental protocols as is standard practice in a research laboratory.15 credits
- Practical Developmental Genetics
The practical unit aims to provide students with experience of research techniques in developmental biology. Students will perform experiments designed to reveal molecular and cellular principles underpinning developmental mechanisms. Emphasis will be placed on exploiting classical genetic and molecular resources available in model organisms such as zebrafish, Drosophila melanogaster, and chick for studying gene function in development. Students will gain experience of performing experimental work, data collection and interpretation of results.15 credits
Optional modules - two from:
- Modelling Human Disease and Dysfunction
The module will provide students with an understanding of how post-genomic biology impacts on our ability to understand, and treat, chronic diseases of the body. Students will be introduced to major experimental systems and approaches that are pertinent to disease modelling. These include genetically-tractable animal model and in vitro cellular systems (including stem cells). We will explore the principles involved in how these systems are exploited to develop new strategies for intervention, including new therapeutics. Critical evaluation of research papers will allow students to gain experience of analysing experimental work, data presentation and interpretation of results.15 credits
- Cancer Biology
The unit will provide a description of the nature of genomic complexity as revealed using next generation sequencing technology. It will explore cancer genotypes and phenotypes in the context of 8 essential characteristics that are common to all cancers, and which collectively dictate malignant growth. These characteristics are : self-sufficiency in growth signals, insensitivity to growth-inhibitory signals, evasion of programmed cell death, limitless replicative potential, sustained angiogenesis, tissue invasion/metastasis, avoidance of immune destruction, and de-regulated cellular energetics. It will discuss how genome instability arises, and together with tumour-promoting inflammation, how these enable the emergence of all other cancer characteristics. It will utilize this conceptual framework to discuss recent and future developments in cancer therapeutics. A brief review of fundamental principles in genetics and molecular cell biology will be given. Nevertheless, students should have a basic understanding of genetics, molecular biology and cell biology.15 credits
- Epithelial Physiology in Health and Disease
The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of the strategies used by epithelia to effect transport of ions and water, and to explore the pathophysiological states associated with a number of inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. Teaching will consist of conventional lectures together with problem solving exercises. The module initially considers the general properties of epithelia, before focusing on the molecular basis of epithelial transport in health and disease. The emphasis throughout will be to appreciate how experimental research informs our understanding of these issues, reflecting the University's mission statement to lead teaching by current research15 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's 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. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.
Throughout your degree, you’ll be taught through lectures, practical sessions, lab placements, tutorials and seminars. In small group teaching classes you’ll discuss, debate and present on scientific and ethical topics. The biggest part of the course will be your individual research project, working alongside professional scientists.
Our teaching covers ethics, practical scientific skills and an overview of the current literature. You’ll also develop useful career skills such as presentation, communication and time management.
I work on the disease cystic fibrosis (CF), which is one of the most common inherited diseases in caucasians, with an incidence of 1 in 2,500 live births. In CF a faulty gene means that the protein CFTR does not work properly. My research is looking at how CFTR is regulated normally, and what happens with faulty CFTR. In addition I am in the process of setting up a new diagnostic tool, with the aim of helping our CF clinic in the early diagnosis of children suffering from CF.
Dr Louise Robson
Assessment is by formal examinations, coursework assignments, debates, poster presentations and a dissertation.
1 year full-time
A good 2:1 honours degree in a biomedical-related subject.
We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.
Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Fees and funding
You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.
Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.