MEDSCI 301 : Molecular Basis of Disease

Medical and Health Sciences

2021 Semester Two (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An in-depth analysis of the cellular and molecular basis of disease, including the role of environmental and inherited risk factors, as well as mechanisms of response to cell injury and inflammation in the disease process. A number of examples will be studied including cancer and infectious disease.

Course Overview

This course aims to study in detail the basis of disease at a cellular and molecular level. Individual disease examples will be used to illustrate how toxicants, infectious agents, genetic factors (inherited and neoplastic) and immune-mediated processes cause human disease. This is known as molecular pathology.
The primary delivery of material is by lectures (3 per week) and there are 3 hour laboratory-based or workshop sessions every alternate week.

Lectures are based around four modules with the following themes:
• Toxicant injury & its effect on organ function
• Infectious & immune mediated diseases
• Genetic (inherited) diseases
• Neoplasia (cancer)

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: MEDSCI 203

Course Contacts

Course Director 
Dr  Nuala Helsby

Course Coordinator 
Dr Rachelle Singleton

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of molecular pathogenesis and the functional consequences of disease (Capability 1)
  2. Demonstrate ability to recognise, report and interpret key features of human diseases using terminology appropriate to the discipline (Capability 1, 2 and 5)
  3. Demonstrate ability to appropriately communicate information (written and oral) to peers and discipline-based experts (Capability 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 45% Individual Examination
Test (mid semester) 10% Individual Test
Presentation 8% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 24% Individual Coursework
Self-directed assignment (online quiz based) 8% Individual Coursework
Workshop 5% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3
Final Exam
Test (mid semester)
Self-directed assignment (online quiz based)

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 32 hours of lectures, 15 hours of laboratory sessions or workshops, 3 hours associated with  a self-directed learning quiz and the remaining 100 hours reading and thinking about the content as well as working on assignments and  mid-semester test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs/workshop to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including group discussions/tutorials.
Attendance on campus is required for the test and exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

 A number of  learning resources, in addition to the lecture material, will be available to you during this course. These include access to   the AMRF-Medical Sciences Learning Centre, virtual histopathology microscopy material and a web-based resource of Pathology material (WebPath).

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester 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 and respond with summaries and actions.

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

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Overall those who responded to SET evaluations for this course were satisfied with the quality of MEDSCI 301. In particular the organisation of the course was good & the content intellectually stimulating. The aims of the course were clear and the assessments supported the course aims. The resources (including digital resources) were helpful for the learning and the assessments supported the course aims. Open-ended comments highlighted several things helpful including the explanation of complex topics by lecturers.

We will continue refining our assignments to ensure these resources are both useful and fair assessments. Our labs have been designed to enable mastery of our three course learning outcomes. The relevance of our labs to lecture material and course learning outcomes will be made more explicit in the next delivery.

Other Information

There are a total of six items of coursework worth a total of 45% of the marks. Five face-to-face assignment sessions scheduled and one self-directed online learning assignment. These comprise three laboratory-based assignments (8% each) focussed on disease processes in selected organ systems (liver, kidney and skin) a workshop session based on immunopathology with the lung as an example organ (5%), an oral poster presentation (8%) and a self-directed online learning assignment on genetic disease (8%).  

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.

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

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.

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.