Back to: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major

Studies in this discipline are available in both the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Biomedicine.

Study the structure and function of components of living cells, to understand the biological processes that enable all living things to survive and thrive.

The structure of complex biomolecules, particularly proteins, is closely linked to their role in the cell, so solving structures can provide valuable information about normal processes and how they change to cause disease. The understanding of how DNA and proteins interact has led to benefits ranging from more effective treatments for cancer to improved agricultural practices.

You will study broad biological processes as well as more specialised topics drawn from structural biology, molecular cell biology, molecular parisitiology and cancer. You will learn how to uncover the molecular processes of life and how this knowledge can be applied in medical science and biotechnology.


You can use your knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology to pursue employment in the following areas:

  • Agriculture
  • Biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries
  • Intellectual property
  • Medical and pharmaceutical research
  • Medical support industries.

You can also work on the development, production and marketing of biochemical consumables and equipment, or on policy-making in government departments.

Subjects you could take in this major

  • To participate in the rapidly expanding fields of genome research and protein structure-function analysis it is necessary to have an understanding of the techniques used in these areas.

    This subject provides practical training in the technologies of molecular biology, protein expression and molecular cell biology. Analysis of the data derived from these techniques is also integral to these studies.

    Areas covered include the use of recombinant DNA for the investigation of gene function, the use of bacterial expression systems for the production and analysis of recombinant proteins; mass spectrometry to identify proteins and the use of fluorescently labelled proteins to understand sub-cellular targetting in mammalian cells.

    Specific experiments will deal with DNA cloning and sequencing, enzyme mutagenesis and expression, the identification of proteins in mammalian sera and using fluorescent microscopy to localise subcellular localisation of proteins in mammalian cells.

    Students will learn how to maintain a laboratory notebook to record their experiments and how to compose a scientific report. In addition, students will develop an appreciation for the current scientific literature and collaborate in student presentations.

    The experimental work is supported by a lecture series providing an overview of technologies used in class and in research.

  • An individual program of supervised research in which the student, in consultation with the supervisor, designs, conducts and reports on the outcomes of a specific project. Detailed requirements are negotiated with the supervisor.

  • Aberrations in the structure and expression of hormones, growth factors, neurotransmitters and their receptors can give rise to diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. To understand the molecular basis of these diseases, it is essential to know how hormones, growth factors and neurotransmitters are synthesised, and how their signals are recognised, amplified and transmitted by intracellular signalling pathways in the target cells.

    Topics covered include structures of hormone and neurotransmitter receptors, mechanisms of intracellular signal transduction, second messengers and protein phosphorylation-dephosphorylation; regulation of gene expression; mechanism of neuronal apoptosis and necrosis, molecular basis of neurodegenerative disease, molecular basis of cancer formation and progression and the use and design of protein kinase inhibitors as therapeutics for treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Knowledge of genome structures from various organisms and the rapid development of technologies that exploit such information are having a big impact in biology, medicine and biotechnology. This subject describes the structure and expression of genomes in higher organisms and provides an understanding of the technologies used to analyse and manipulate genes. Students will learn how the modification of genes in cells and whole organisms can be used to discover gene function or to modify phenotype. The structure of eukaryotic chromosomes is presented to demonstrate how genetic material is replicated and how transcription of RNA is controlled. We illustrate how pathways that regulate RNA and protein are integrated to control cell metabolism and cell fate. The content will cover the bioinformatic techniques used to interpret and extend genomic information. The approaches of functional genomics will be discussed in relation to cancer to illustrate the application of molecular biology to the study of human biology and health.

  • The interpretation of nutritional information relies on an understanding of how nutrients are metabolised and what can go wrong in disease states. The subject material covers control of the digestion and absorption of nutrients; the regulation of blood glucose concentration and the causes of diabetes; the generation of free-radicals and the importance of antioxidants in protecting proteins, lipids and DNA from oxidative damage; the regulation of muscle protein metabolism in response to starvation, physical trauma and various diseases; the metabolism of blood lipids and how they contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease; metabolic contributions to obesity, cardiovascular disease, aging and related nutritional problems; carrier proteins for nutrients and receptors on the cell surface involved in the regulation of nutrition and metabolism.

  • To complement the information explosion of the new genomic era, it is essential to appreciate the cellular architecture of cells and how the delivery of proteins to their correct locations in the cell is crucial for the complex intracellular signalling pathways that control cell morphology, organisation and behaviour. Topics covered include compartmentalisation in eukaryotic cells; intracellular RNA and protein traffic; the molecular structure, function and biogenesis of subcellular organelles; protein folding and maturation; vesicle-mediated transport; structure and function of the extracellular matrix and cell adhesion molecules and their role in diseased states such as malignancies; cellular stress responses and linked signal transduction events; cytoskeletal structures and the signal transduction processes regulating the assembly and disassembly of actin-cytoskeleton; molecular processes determining cell movement and shape changes; imaging of processes within live cells. Students should acquire an understanding of the relationships between molecular design, cellular organisation and biological function of normal, stressed and malignant eukaryotic cells, as well as detailed knowledge of the major experimental strategies for investigating the molecular basis of these relationships. In addition to these specific skills, students will think critically from consideration of the lecture material and research papers, expand from theoretical principles to practical explanations through observing and reporting research literature.

  • This subject will describe the wide range of structures, functions and interactions of proteins and their importance in biological processes, biomedicine and biotechnology. Emphasis will be on the three-dimensional structure of proteins and their interactions with peptides, proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other physiologically important molecules. We will describe experimental and computational techniques and how they help in determining and predicting protein structure and function, aid the design of new proteins and are used to develop new drugs. The subject matter addresses the general properties of protein structure; the major classes and topologies of proteins; evolution of sequence, structure and function; protein synthesis, folding, misfolding, targeting and trafficking; protein engineering for biotechnology; bioinformatics analysis of protein sequence and structure; binding of small molecules to proteins and drug design; protein-protein interactions; effects of mutations on tertiary structure, protein stability and biological functions; enzyme reaction kinetics and mechanisms. This subject is required for completion of a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Biomedicine & Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Science Extended pages.