Structural Molecular Biology

Study mode:Full-time Languages: English Duration:1 year
Local:$ 12.9k / 1 Academic year(s) Foreign:$ 36.6k / 1 Academic year(s)  
StudyQA ranking:1640

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In the post-genome era, there is a wealth of information about the genomes of many organisms, including humans.

The next challenge is to assign and understand the functions of the final genome products proteins and, in particular, to understand at the molecular and biochemical level, the functions of identified disease-linked proteins and proteins that carry out basic life processes.

The requirement for three-dimensional information is an essential part of this process.

With many of the structure determination techniques becoming semi-automatic and routine, there will be a requirement for more broadly trained structural biology researchers who understand the use of complementary techniques for deriving biological function from structure.

It is therefore essential that trained structural biologists in both academia and industry have knowledge and skills in all macromolecular structural determination techniques.

You complete two 20-week research projects during the year.

The projects are designed to give practical experience of laboratory research and opportunities to learn a wide range of skills.

Each project will incorporate at least two of the five structural biology areas:

  • Macromolecular structure function and structural bioinformatics
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Biological nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Cryo-electron microscopy
  • Mass spectrometry

In addition, there are various tutorials covering protein structural principles, cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR):

  • Macromolecular structure principles
  • Macromolecular Structure Determination
  • Macromolecular Structure Function
  • Structural Biology in Drug Discovery

You will also acquire a range of professional and transferable skills through workshops and courses given by the Faculty of Life Sciences and by the Graduate School.

You will attend seminars, together with journal clubs and work in progress meetings, which are relevant to your interests.

You will also present and discuss your work at lab meetings in the labs of your current research project and will have regular meetings about progress with your supervisors.

The programme is only offered as a full-time, one-year course and leads to the MRes degree. Students will attend both lectures selected from existing course modules and specially designed seminar style lectures. Furthermore, students will also attend practical courses and workshops on specific techniques to gain training in the broad area of structural molecular biology. Specific tutorials are also offered to provide opportunity for in-depth discussion and knowledge on selected topics. A dissertation in literature review style provides further opportunity for broad in depth knowledge in structural molecular biology. The remainder of the course comprises two individual (17-18 weeks) research projects followed by a seminar presentation and viva voce with two internal examiners. A final viva voce with the visiting examiners take place at the conclusion of the course. The overall pass mark is 50% and each project contributes 45% of the final mark and the dissertation contributes to 10%. Term one: All students attend an induction week and are advised to start discussing possible research projects with appropriate academic staff. Students will then attend lectures in Macromolecule in 3D and carry out background reading in the following weeks. Projects (about 18 weeks) begins in the 6th week of term. Students also attend lectures on practical protein crystallography course. Term Two: Project continues and students attend a series of lectures shared with MRes in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. A written report will be handed in and examined before Easter Vacations. Term Three: The Students hand in their literature dissertation and begins their second project (about 17 weeks). All students are expected to attend 6 weeks lectures ( 2 hours per week) specifically designed for the course as well as divisional seminars (once a month). Dissertations will be marked by two examiners and feedbacks are given to the students. Practicals are also schedules in x-ray crystallography, NMR and EM. In august, the students write up their project reports followed by an internal viva. In September, special tutorials are offered to help strengthening the fundamental knowledge acquired throughout the year. Towards the end of September, all students are examined by viva voce on their projects and the taught aspects of the course by the visiting. 

The minimum qualification for admission is normally an upper second class (2:1) honours degree in life sciences or a related subject from a UK academic institution or an equivalent overseas qualification.

If your first degree is from a country other than the UK, you may find the guidelines within our Country Index helpful. Please note that these guidelines indicate the College minimum. Our requirement is usually higher.

Candidates with a degree qualification below a 2:1 (or equivalent) but research experience may also be considered for admission – contact the Course Directors for advice before making an application.

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