MSc Molecular Medicine modules and specialist pathways

The course in detail

This is a flexible course that gives you the chance to choose specialist modules from the pathway that interests you most. You'll carry out a five-month research project, which gives you invaluable laboratory experience. Our graduates go on to PhD study or work in related industries.

Modules and specialist pathways

The course begins with six core modules, followed by a choice of one of four specialist pathways: Genetic Mechanisms, Microbes and Infection, Cancer and Experimental Medicine.  

You apply for the whole course and choose your pathway at the same time as your research project, ten weeks into the course. Your research project will be associated with the pathway you have chosen. You will have a free choice of pathway – there is no limit to student number per pathway.

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 practising 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 bibliographical research on the background of their MSc laboratory project and to write a review of the scientific articles that they will have read. The students will complete these tasks independently but under the 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

Professor 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, teaching 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, and your proposals for discovering mutations and for manipulating specific DNA sequences.

Learning involves 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 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 standard 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

Your research project

We give you practical lab training to prepare you for your research project. The project is five months long and will provide you with experience of planning, carrying out, recording and reporting your own research.

Examples of research projects

This list shows projects that students have undertaken in previous years. Your project will relate to current research being undertaken in the department. You are guaranteed one of your top five choices and will usually get your first or second choice. The projects are grouped by pathway title but several projects are available across more than one pathway.

  • Inducing breast cancer immunogenic cell death with Cancer Killing Viruses
  • The role of voltage gated sodium channels in the invasiveness and metastatic potential of cancer cells
  • Understanding the role of microtubule dynamics in the homeostasis of axonal transport and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Transcriptomic and cell cycle analysis of THAP8-deficient cells
  • Targeting the endogenous cannabinoid system as alternative to medicinal marijuana for the treatment of prostate cancer
  • Elucidating the cellular pathways and machinery involved in epithelial polarisation and cancer using advanced imaging techniques
  • DNA replication complexes of the 'high cancer risk' human papillomaviruses (HPV) as targets for anti-viral/anti-cancer therapies
  • The small heat shock protein [alpha]B-crystallin (HSPB5) as a regulator of fibrosarcoma response to chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Experimental medicine
  • Investigating the effect of inflammation on veratridine response-profiles in primary sensory neurons
  • Developing a bi-functional non-antibiotic biodegradable wound dressing for treating chronic ulcers
  • Regulation of BPIFA2: an unexplored role in acute kidney disease
  • Development of microfabricated smart scaffolds for bone regeneration
  • Do neutrophil-derived microvesicles affect lung epithelial cell permeability?
  • Modulating cilia in the mucociliary airway epithelium
  • Chronic inflammatory disease in obesity: is leptin driven adipocyte-macrophage inflammatory signalling dependent on TRIB3?
  • Therapeutic potential of GSK3[beta] inhibition for anxiety and depression
  • Investigation of the generation of force by fibroblasts under the influence of therapeutic ultrasound
  • Novel strategy for intraneuronal delivery of proteins for treatment of neurological diseases
  • Is packaging of vault RNAs into extracellular vesicles dependent on major vault protein?
Microbes and infection
  • The potential of anti-adhesion therapy in a biofilm infection model
  • Role of FlrB in the regulation of bacterial motility and colonisation
  • Treating Respiratory Syncytial Viral Infection by Targeting Membrane Microdomains
  • The regulation of rhinoviral infection of the human airway by APPL1 and APPL2
  • Colicin M derivatives as novel antimicrobials against antibiotic resistant Gram-negative bacteria
Genetic mechanisms
  • Identification of neuronal kill factors secreted by stem cell-derived astrocytes from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients
  • DNA damage and repair mechanisms in cellular models of TDP-43 mediated neurodegeneration
  • Is SENP1-mediated deSUMOylation of XBP1 Required for Autophagy Induction by ER stress for Cell Survival?
  • Characterization of miRNAs targeting TRIB1 and their impact on macrophage function, polarization and lipid metabolism
  • In silico functional analysis of inherited cancer susceptibility variants on chromosome 2

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 assessed via essays and exams
  • a self-directed learning module that is assessed by written coursework
  • a 20-week practical research project which is assessed by a dissertation
  • constructive feedback on all work throughout the year

The external examiner for this course states:

"I found the course to be very stimulative by providing in depth training and education in a wide range of topics in molecular medicine. This demanding programme is flanked by excellent pastoral care and support, a circumstance that was very highly regarded and mentioned by the student representatives. Student representatives shared with me the impression that in general marking was fair, consistent and of high standard."

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:

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

International scholarships

We offer a generous package of financial support for international students, including undergraduate and postgraduate taught scholarships towards the annual tuition fee. Applications are open for existing offer holders.