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The University of Southampton

GSCI0008 Fundamentals of Biology

Module Overview

This module is designed to provide students with the biology knowledge and skills required for a successful transition to degree-level study in disciplines which require a strong background in the subject. The material covered is at a level corresponding to pre-university qualifications such as A Level in the UK. The module provides a foundation of knowledge in physiology and cell biology, and there is a strong emphasis on the application of the subject in different contexts.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Develop essential knowledge and understanding of facts, principles and concepts of biology and the skills needed to use them in both familiar and unfamiliar situations; develop an understanding of scientific methods; encourage an awareness of advances in technology relevant to biology and how this may impact on society; bring together knowledge and understanding of how different areas of biology relate to each other.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • recognise, recall and show understanding of specific biological facts, terminology, principles, concepts, and practical techniques;
  • draw on existing knowledge to show understanding of the ethical, social, economic, environmental and technological implications and applications of biology;
  • select, organise and present relevant information clearly logically and using specialist vocabulary where appropriate;
  • use biological skills in contexts which bring together different areas of the subject.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe, explain and interpret phenomena and effects in terms of biological principles and concepts, presenting arguments and ideas clearly and logically, using specialist vocabulary where appropriate;
  • interpret and translate from one form to another, data presented as continuous prose, or in tables, diagrams, drawings and graphs;
  • apply biological principles and concepts in solving problems in unfamiliar situations including those which relate to ethical, social, economic and technological implications and applications of biology;
  • assess the validity of biological information, experiments, inferences and statements
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • manage your own learning;
  • communicate scientific information effectively;
  • apply mathematical methods to solve problems in biology;
  • apply problem solving techniques to familiar and unfamiliar biological problems;
  • use IT to support learning


Topic Cell Biology: The cellular nature of organisms and the structure of cells as revealed by the optical microscope. Comparison of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Preparation of temporary slides of plant and animal cells for examination and drawing using the light microscope. Micrometry. Structure of cells as revealed by the electron microscope; function of organelles; principles of cell fractionation. Comparison of optical and electron microscopes. Interpretation of electron micrographs Structure and properties of cell membranes; transport across membranes. Molecular structure, properties and functions of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Investigation to find water potential of plant tissue. Biochemical tests for carbohydrates, lipids and proteins; paper chromatography to separate and identify amino acids. The nature and mode of action of enzymes and factors affecting their activity. Practical investigation of specificity and factors affecting activity Cell respiration: respiratory substrate, R.Q., biochemistry of aerobic and anaerobic respiration, role of ATP. Human Physiology: The role of enzymes in human digestion; absorption and assimilation. Practical investigation of digestive enzymes The components of a balanced diet and the role of nutrients in growth and metabolism. The structure of the lungs in relation to efficient gas exchange and the mechanism and control of ventilation. Practical investigation of factors affecting oxidation of vitamin C; dietary analysis The structure of the lungs in relation to efficient gas exchange and the mechanism and control of ventilation. Measurement of lung volumes using spirometer The composition and functions of blood; blood groups. Transport of respiratory gases and defence against disease The structure and function of the heart and blood vessels in circulation of the blood; the cardiac cycle and its control; the effects of exercise. Measurement of blood pressure and pulse before and after exercise Link with ventilation The structure and function of the kidneys and their role in nitrogenous excretion and osmo-regulation. The mechanisms and significance of homeostasis. Thermoregulation and control of blood glucose Control and coordination: the role of hormones in homeostasis and growth and development. Homeostasis: ADH, insulin and glucagon; Growth and development: hormones involved in the menstrual cycle Inheritance and Evolution: The structure of the nucleic acids and their role in protein synthesis; DNA replication; recombinant DNA technology Mitosis and meiosis; the significance of, and differences between the two processes. Preparation of onion root tips for stages in mitosis Principles of Mendelian inheritance: monohybrid and dihybrid crosses, multiple alleles, co dominance, sex-linkage Principles of classification The evidence for, and mechanisms of, evolution Ecology: The biochemistry of photosynthesis; factors affecting rate of photosynthesis. Investigations into factors affecting rate of photosynthesis; separation of leaf pigments by paper chromatography The concept of ecosystems; energy flow through food chains/webs; the cycling of carbon and nitrogen; the impact of human activity on ecosystems; population ecology

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures, supported by handouts illustrating theory and examples. • Projected materials. • Study materials available on the Virtual Learning Environment. • Practice exercises and tests. Learning activities include • Problem solving, comprehension and data analysis exercises • Self assessment exercises • Group discussion/question and answer sessions • Individual research on topics • Private study Study Time Allocation: • Contact Hours: 120 • Private Study Hours: 180 • Total study time: 300 hours

Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Follow-up work90
Wider reading or practice36
Supervised time in studio/workshop48
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Mike Boyle and Kathryn Senior (2008). Biology. 

Part of the Philip Allan A-Level Review series (this quarterly publication is designed for AS and A2 students and ties in with special units across AQA, Edexcel and OCR exam boards. Biological Sciences Review. 

Glen and Susan Toole (1999). New Understanding Biology. 

Biology Websites - recommended resources listed on the VLE.

Grace Monger, Michael Reiss and Michael Roberts (2000). Advanced Biology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 60%
Examination  (120 minutes) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 60%
Examination  (120 minutes) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Approved Calculators

All students will be required to have a University approved calculator

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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