BIOSCI 101 : Life! Origins and Mechanisms


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Questions what life is and explores its machinery. Speculates on how life arose from the flow and capture of solar energy, to power growth, movement, replication and storage of genetic information. Describes how genes interact with environments, and how mutations can be catastrophic or transformational. These processes underpin life as we know it.

Course Overview

Your journey through BIOSCI 101 starts by questioning what life is, and how life may have arisen. The chief ingredient for life is energy, and most comes from the Sun. This energy was possibly trapped within primordial molecules, some of which are now universal among all organisms. We discuss how cells harness this power to replicate, grow, move and store genetic information within genes. We then progress to how genes interact within the cell and environment, and how genetic mutations can be catastrophic or transformational. We will have set you on a course to understand the processes and patterns underpinning life. Tihei mauri ora!

The course is structured to maximise the opportunity for students to master  conceptual and skill outcomes. To enable this, a variety  of learning opportunities  are blended into the course to facilitate each student to work and learn independently at the level and pace appropriate to their needs. All teaching activities and resources can be accessed in Canvas.
The course includes weekly online  short lectures to help with familiarisation and retention, where your background may need updating; assigned readings; lectures that guide you to  key points for learning and the process for answering assessment questions. Practice activities with feedback and questions are available online  in the tutor system MasteringBiology. The knowledge you have gained during the course is assessed in a short test (week 10) and final exam. Laboratories occur six times during the semester (fortnightly) and are also assessed.

BIOSCI 101 Life! Origins and mechanisms  must be taken by all students in the Biological Sciences major alongside its sister courses BIOSCI 108 Biodiversity: Patterns of life and BIOSCI 109 Ecology and Evolution: The Continuum of Life, as year one core requirements.
 It is recommended having a background in year 12 and /or 13  biology and chemistry to ensure you have the appropriate level of preparedness for BIOSCI 101. 

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Identify, describe and explain the key concepts and processes of bioenergetics, cell biology and genetics to the level required for progression to stage two biological sciences courses. (Capability 1, 4 and 5)
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in constructing and interpreting graphical and numerical data. (Capability 1, 3 and 4)
  3. Demonstrate core competency in basic biological laboratory techniques. (Capability 1)
  4. Use active learning approaches to become an independent and passionate life-long learner. (Capability 1, 4 and 5)
  5. Follow self-directed processes to monitor and regulate your learning to develop academic skills and intellectual independence. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Work responsibly, safely and ethically, both individually and in peer or team contexts. (Capability 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Laboratories 28% Individual Coursework
Online formative assessment 12% Individual Coursework
Test 20% Individual Test
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Online formative assessment
Final Exam
Students must pass the practical (laboratory assessments) and the theory (online formative assessment + Test + Exam) to pass the course overall.


The Tuākana Programme provides peer tutorial assistance for Māori and Pasifika students taking first year Biology papers. The programme is supported by the School of Biological Sciences.
Tutorials are usually held every week at the same times and are led by senior Māori and Pasifika students. The tutors come prepared to answer questions arising from your reading, lectures and laboratories in the previous week and can help also with advice on study and other skills. Tutors seek to provide a friendly and informal atmosphere for you to ask questions about your work and any questions you may have about university life in general. 
For more information and to find contact details for the BIOSCI 101 Tuākana coordinator, please see

Key Topics

BIOSCI 101 has three overarching topics which are delivered in the following order during the semester. Each topic takes about four weeks.

  1. Bioenergetics. This topic includes:  an introduction to biochemistry, thermodynamics and its relevance to metabolism and life; Glycolysis; The Citric Acid cycle (CAC), the second of Kreb’s cycles; The Electron Transport System, the spark of life; ATP synthesis, the search for the squiggle (~); Glucose, eat it or make it; Blood glucose levels during the fed and fasting states, exercise and diabetes; Conversion of light energy to chemical energy – catching light; Where do French fries really come from?
  2. Cell and Molecular Biology. This topic includes Cells and organelles; The chemical components of cells; Cell membranes, cell junctions and membrane transport; The structure and composition of proteins; Enzymes and the nature of enzymic catalysis; Structure and function of nucleic acids; Synthesis of mRNA (transcription) and protein synthesis (translation); The genetic code and transcriptional control; Control of gene expression in bacteria - the lac operon.
  3. Genetics. This topic includes Genetics and DNA technology; Reproduction and how do eukaryotes reproduce?; The inheritance of genes; The chromosomal basis of inheritance; Research applications in New Zealand; Genetically engineered food.

Special Requirements

Students must pass the practical (laboratories) and the theory (online assignments, test and exam) independently to pass the course overall.
Attendance is required at the evening test 6.30-8.00 pm (confirmed date is provided in course work book). Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made.

Health and Safety:
Students are required to supply and wear a lab coat and safety glasses while in the teaching lab.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect three hours of lectures. There are three hours of labs per fortnight  and 1 hour  of work on online assignments and lab preparation each week. Additional online material to support learning lecture material is available each week.

For the 12 teaching weeks, this totals  66 hours. Since the course as a whole represents approximately 150 hours of study, that leaves a total of 84 hours across the entire semester for independent study, e.g. reading, reflection, preparing for assessments/exams.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled lab activities to complete assessments that contribute marks to the final grade.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.
Attendance on campus is required for the test and exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.
Please contact the course coordinator Mandy Harper ( to request access to alternative online laboratory activities.

Learning Resources

Prescribed text book: Campbell Biology: Australia and New Zealand version, 11th edition, 2017. Lisa A. Urry, Michal L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter V. Minorsky, Robert B Jackson, Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reece. Pearson Education Inc.
Other recommended reading is available through the library course pages.

Course Workbook and Laboratory manual (one book) can be purchased from Ubiq the university bookstore. This book is also available in Canvas in electronic format.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Feedback from previous BIOSCI 101 cohorts has changed the assessment, pace, and topic choices in the course. We continually review the course and draw upon the collective experience and wisdom of our students as well as our staff, in developing and fine-tuning this course.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Your course coordinator is Mandy Harper (phone +64 9 923 7794, email Please let me know how best we can support you in this course.

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

New Zealand has a 4-level COVID-19 Alert System. Each Alert Level tells us what measures we need to take. The BIOSCI 101 course delivery mode for each level is outlined below:
Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.  The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: [Lectures, labs, office hours]
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 06/07/2021 10:42 a.m.