MSc Molecular Medicine: Clinical Applications Pathway

Course structure information

Doctors treating a patient

Medicine is quickly adopting molecular diagnostic technologies, vaccines and therapies that are the results of recent advances in molecular medicine and they are dramatically improving the way that human diseases can be treated.

For students with a degree in Medicine, we are offering the opportunity to spend a 20-week clinical attachment with a specialist clinical team at the University Hospital, after you have completed the taught part of the MSc in Molecular Medicine. 

The clinical applications module aims to enable students to observe how the latest advances in molecular medicine have been translated into clinical practice in the UK NHS.  Students will have the opportunity to work with research active clinicians in the University Teaching Hospital.

The MSc Molecular Medicine MSc prepares medically qualified students for careers as clinician scientists and as such is excellent preparation for a future PhD or MD in the UK or elsewhere. The clinical observer ship is not an accredited clinical training course.

The student will learn about the current clinical management of a specific clinical disease in the UK.  By the completion of the course, with respect to the disease observed and studied, students will be able to

  • discuss the epidemiology in the UK, placing it in the wider context of global epidemiology
  • critically analyse the literature that seeks to explain global differences
  • describe the pathogenesis and assess the evidence to support the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie it
  • critically assess the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie treatment options
  • critically assess the molecular basis for, and the clinical use of, relevant diagnostics in diagnosis and disease monitoring
  • illustrate how these new molecular technologies are integrated with clinical, physiological and psychosocial considerations, to create comprehensive diagnostic, treatment and clinical monitoring strategies.

In addition to the taught course in Molecular Medicine, the student will undertake two components specific to the clinical area they are studying.

1. Literature Review

In this module, the student will be expected to carry out independent bibliogaphical research on the scientific background to the clinical work you will do during the observership and to write a review of the scientific articles that you will have read. The review should be written as professionally as possible, as if it were intended for publication as a short review article or as the background section of a grant application.

The module will start in December and is led by a supervisor/clinical co-supervisor.  Students will first receive guidance from their supervisor on the topics to cover in the review.  Students will then work on their own for several weeks.  They will carry out bibliographic searches, read criticially the scientific literature thus identified and prepare a draft of the review before submitting the final version.

2. Seminar Presentation

The aim of the module is for the student to acquire skills in presenting the background, evidence and some early clinical observations succinctly and comprehensibly, and to respond to questions from the audience. The student should also be able to pose appropriate questions to other student speakers.

3. Clinical Observership

The Observership runs from the end of March to early August.  Total 300 hours or 3 days per week equivalent.

The student will spend time with relevant clinical and laboratory teams at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.  In advance of the start of the observership, the student and supervisor will meet to decide the precise focus of the observership and a personal development plan (PDP).  During the observership the student will compile a portfolio of clinical cases seen, discussed and reflected on and use these to inform a dissertation that discusses how advances in molecular medicine are translating into changes in clinical practice in the specific clinical area.


During the observership the student will put together a portfolio as evidence of their clinical experience.  This will include three elements:

  • Log Book - Diagnosis, summary of history, examination, investigations, management plan, outcome.
  • Case-based discussion (CbD) - A discussion about the management of a patient and the supervisor provides feedback on the student's clinical reasoning, decision-making and application of medical knowledge in relation to patient care.  The CbD might focus on a written record in the logbook or patient notes.
  • Reflection - the student documents their reflection about the key learning from a case and its relevance to the themes of their project.


This will be a project that pulls together the molecular biology and the clinical practice in the discipline.  The student will agree a project question with their supervisor.  The main output will be a dissertation that is submitted.  Students may be invited to attend a viva voce examination.  The dissertation will draw on the clinical experience during the observership as recorded in the portfolio and can build on, but not include, the literature review.

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

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

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

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

Sheila Francis
Module Leader

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

Human Gene Bioinformatics

[15 credits]

This module is a computer practical class that teaches you how to extract, manipulate and interpret DNA and protein sequences 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 (currently 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

Lab Practice and Stats

[15 credits]

This module offers 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 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

Students with and without medical qualifications are most welcome on the other pathways of the MSc Molecular Medicine.

The UK government has announced a new two-year post-study work visa for international students

2-year post-study work visas

How to apply

For potential applications only for the Clinical Applications pathway of the MSc in Molecular Medicine, please make preliminary contact with the pathway leader Dr Paul Collini PhD MBChB MRCP BSc DTM&H (Florey Advanced Fellow & Hon Consultant Infectious Diseases).

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: 3 November 2022

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