The Human Biology course offers you a comprehensive view of man as a biological species. You will study genetics, physiology, cell biology, evolution and development. Each year of study will feature one or several signature modules that are exclusive to the Human Biology course, along with modules that draw on relevant content from our full spectrum of degree courses.
The modular structure of the course allows you to follow your specific interests in Human Biology. Following a first year, where all modules compulsory, you will enjoy an increasing level of freedom of choice in the second and final year. Below we outline the modules available for each of the three years.
The modules described here are the ones that we currently offer and will give you a good idea of the range of subjects that we teach. However as our undergraduate teaching is research led and we constantly review our teaching to ensure that the modules that we offer are up to date there may be changes to module titles and content.
Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2022. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.
The Human Biology course begins with an introduction to key concepts in biology, from molecular and cellular features to the concept of evolution, including genetics and physiology. Skills training is an integral part of the course at all levels. You also take a Widening Horizon Module, which allows you to access to content from other Schools, from Humanities to the Sciences to Engineering.
First year modules
Human Nutrition and Metabolism - Exploring four broad themes: nutrition, energy metabolism, practical biochemistry techniques, and regulation and deregulation of metabolic pathways.
Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology | Watch video - An overview of introduction from the pre-biotic era to Darwin and his impact. Natural selection, the origins of altruism and sexual reproduction, genetic determinants of evolution.
Cell Biology and Physiology - Tissues, organelles, reproduction and development.
Genetics I - Storage of genetic information, gene expression and regulation, mitosis and meiosis, gene linkage and chromosome mapping.
Fundamentals of Biochemistry - Fundamental biochemical processes taking place inside cells
Introduction to Microbiology | Watch video - Broad introduction to microbiology with a focus on infectious disease, covering bacteria, fungi, protists, archaea and viruses
Personal and Academic Skills: Communication and Data Analysis
Personal and Academic Development
Beth Pattle, first year student "I chose human biology because I really felt that I wanted to specialise after previously studying a wide spectrum of topics at A level. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year; it is hard work but very rewarding."
The second year features a combination of core modules that all students on the Human Biology course follow, and elective modules, where you can start to define your personal direction in the course.
Second year modules
Choose three optional modules
Example optional modules may include:
Cell and Developmental Biology – Development of multicellular organisms, interaction between cells and the cellular matrix, regulation of stem cell function.
Topics in Medical Biosciences – Neurobiology and neurotransmitters, pharmacology and anaesthetics, blood constituents and haemostasis, complement and immunity.
Genetics II – Organisation of genes and genomes, generation of genetic diversity, gene transmission and analysis of problems in transmission and molecular genetics.
Microbes and Man – The impact of microbes on humans, bacteria, fungi and viruses, common themes of infectious disease mechanisms.
Animal Biology – This module explores how the central nervous system translates sensory stimuli to behaviour. Topics include comparative neurobiology, biological timekeeping, sensory biology, learning and behaviour and others.
Animal Biology: Principles and Mechanisms – This module explores how the central nervous system translates sensory stimuli to behaviour. Topics include comparative neurobiology, biological timekeeping, sensory biology, learning and behaviour and others.
You will spent the third year at an overseas institution, studying human biology in English. There is a wide range of possible destinations. You can find details of partner institutions and other information here. You will need to apply formally for the international year during your second year, and the application involves a personal statement and why you wish to study at the chosen overseas institution. Your tutor will support you in this process.
Note that you will be asked to identify three possible destinations, as not everyone can be accommodated at their number one choice.
The core component of the final year is the Project, which covers 40 of 120 final year credits and stretches over both Semester 1 and 2. In dialogue with a lecturer or professor, you will do your own research and be led to intellectual independence. A diverse spectrum of elective modules allows you to explore individual facets of human biology according to your personal preference and interests.
You may choose between a laboratory project, a two-part library research or a computing-based project. Students choose their project from an extensive list near the end of their 2nd year. Some even arrange a project independently in collaboration with an academic member of staff. Whichever path you choose, you will find that the project is particular highlight of your academic training and experience.
Final year modules
Choose 40 credits from the following project modules:
Choose four optional modules*
Example optional modules may include:
Human Evolution - Genetics and genomics, development of bipedalism, development of society and how humans’ activity applies selective pressure on the evolution of HIV.
Human Health and Disease - This module builds on the 2nd year module 'Human structure and function', and discusses advanced concepts in anatomy and physiology. It also gives students an insight into how clinicians approach problems relating to diagnosis and management of disease.
Cancer Biology – Regulation of cell division and aberrations in malignant tumours, genetic bases of tumourigenesis, programmed cell death.
Cellular Signalling - Signal transduction in and between cells, G-protein coupled receptors, phospholipid and Ca2+ signalling, ligand-gated ion channels and electrical responses.
Molecular Basis of Bacterial Infection | Watch video - Evolution of bacterial virulence, antibiotics and antibiotics resistance, genomic data in analysing pathogenicity.
Structures of Destruction: the structural biology of pathogenicity - Bacterial and viral pathogens explored from the perspective of their molecular structures, protein misfolding and amyloid diseases.
Bacterial Gene Regulation - How genes are switched on or off in response to external stimuli, how control of gene expression can be explored experimentally.
Molecular and Cellular Immunology | Watch video - Evolution of the immune system, innate immunity, cell biology of immunity, structural basis of discrimination between self and non-self.
Living in Groups: Collective Behaviour in Animals - This module explores features and rules of group behaviour in animals.
Cellular Neurobiology | Watch video - Neuronal function and neural development, synaptic function, transmitter receptors and ion channels.
Eukaryotic Gene Expression - The central processes in gene expression are transcription and translation. Control of gene expression plays an important role in development, homeostasis and disease. This module explores the molecular mechanisms used to control gene expression, including transcription initiation, post-transcriptional control and epigenetic.
Exercise and Behavioural Immunology
Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour
Exercise and Diet; Mechanisms of action in exercise performance, promotion of health and longevity
Current developments and advances in Eukaryotic Genetics - Genetic variation in humans and model organisms, dynamics of chromosome organisation during mitosis and meiosis, genome instability.
Omics for Biomedical Research
Research Methods in Microbiology
* Modules run either in Semester 1 or Semester 2. Particular combinations of modules may not be advisable, especially if all 4 choices were to run in the same semester.