BIOSCI 757 : Structural Biology


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Reviews recent studies of biological systems that highlight molecular structure, and its ability to explain cellular biology. Topics may include: protein folding and targeting in the cell, motor proteins, pathogen and immune system molecules, and the inference of protein structure and function from genomic data. A sound understanding of BIOSCI 350 or equivalent is assumed.

Course Overview

The focus of Structural Biology is to understand biological processes at the level of the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules. In general, these are proteins, being the “workhorses” of living systems, but also nucleic acids and polysaccharides are, of course, critical in their respective roles. In any living organism, be it a single cell or a multi-cellular organism, proper function requires the interplay of thousands of protein molecules, each normally folded into a unique 3D structure and each performing its particular biological function efficiently and with great specificity.

In this course, we take an in-depth look at specific topics in structural biology, selected from many. This year we focus on the latest literature and cutting edge science in the general fields of protein assemblies and nanotechnology (inspired by nature) and enzyme/metabolic engineering. These topics are intended to illustrate some of the principles that come into play when we look at biology from the perspective of 3D structure. The course is also intended to familiarise you with strategies to assimilate information from research papers focused on structural studies, with a view to identifying key points relating structure to function. The skills developed in this course through your research, analysis, and written and oral presentations, will help you be an effective (science) communicator and will be invaluable transferable skills in your future careers in science and beyond.

*Students who are approved are able to take this course remotely.

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

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Interpret summarise, and present both orally and in written reports, concepts from the scientific literature. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  2. Argue one side of a hypothesis based on scientific data. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Demonstrate key methodologies and approaches to the production and characterisation of molecular assemblies and engineered enzymes/pathways by identifying limitations and gaps in knowledge, and proposing solutions. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Formulate a coherent scientific argument through independent research and synthesising data from multiple sources. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  5. Critically evaluate peer presentations by providing insightful and constructive feedback. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  6. Evaluate peer feedback and demonstrate the incorporation of this feedback in future assessments. (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  7. Extract key content/themes from a journal article and summarise these and demonstrate the research significance concisely (in less than 200 words). (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Presentations 40% Individual Coursework
Essay 30% Individual Coursework
Assignments 15% Individual Coursework
Peer Review 15% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Peer Review

This course is 100% coursework and does not have tests or a final exam.

Key Topics

Module 1. Man-made enzymes and metabolic engineering
Module 2. Protein assemblies and nanotechnology (inspired by nature)

Learning Resources

Material will be provided electronically before each seminar. Students who are approved to study remotely will be provided with additional instructions and resources to complete this course - please contact the course coordinator Chris Squire (

Special Requirements


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 24 hours of lectures and student seminar/discussion sessions, and up to 100 hours of reading and thinking about the content, working on seminar/essay assignments and peer review. 

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.


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.

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.

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 at

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.

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.

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 04/08/2020 12:52 p.m.