Understanding Genomics - BIOS5490

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 5 15 (7.5) Peter Ellis checkmark-circle


This module will introduce students to the importance of genome-wide DNA sequence analysis in a range of different fields of study including forensic science, medical diagnosis and historical research. They will acquire a full grounding in the basic biology of how sequence data is acquired and analysed, and engage with up-to-date methods of DNA sequence analysis in the practical sessions. At the broad level, the module will be structured around the following 4 themes:
What is a genome? This addresses genome content and structure, including both functional and non-functional elements of the genome such as the simple "junk" DNA repeats used for forensic identification.

Understanding genomic variation. This addresses the molecular causes of genomic variation between individuals – i.e. what makes us all unique – and the technical methodologies used to detect genomic variation.

What are the implications of being able to read DNA? This covers the extent to which we can infer phenotype from genomic sequence – e.g. how much you can tell about a person once their genome has been sequenced. Specific examples may be drawn from forensic science, medical diagnosis and historical analysis.

What are the implications of being able to write or edit DNA? This addresses nascent and future technology for genome editing – what can it achieve, what are the risks, what are the ethical issues?


Contact hours

27 Contact hours
123 Hours of private study
Total hours for the module: 150 hours

Method of assessment

Laboratory practical report (1500 words, 25%)
Computer analysis workshop report (1500 words, 25%)
Exam (2 hours, 50%)

Indicative reading

Relevant chapters from core undergraduate biology textbooks, e.g. Campbell's Biology
Dudley, J.T. and Karczewski, K.J. (2013) Exploring Personal Genomics, Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780199644490
Lesk, A. (2017) Introduction to Genomics (3rd edition), Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780198754831

Additionally selected peer-reviewed research and review papers will be recommended.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module, students will be able to demonstrate:
An understanding of the composition and structure of complex eukaryotic genomes
An understanding of how genes and genomes vary between individuals, the origins of this variation, and the modern molecular technologies used to measure genetic and genomic variation
Technical skills in working with DNA and carrying out basic bioinformatics and genomic analysis of nucleotide sequences
An understanding of the information that can be inferred from genomic sequence data, including identification of individuals, assessment of population structure (ethnic background) and phenotype prediction including medically-relevant information
An understanding of the uses to which this information can be put, such as forensic analysis, medical diagnosis and historical research
An understanding of methods of genome editing and the ethical issues surrounding it

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Communicate information, arguments and analysis to specialist and non-specialist audiences
Analyse and communicate experimental findings
Understand the limits of their knowledge and how this influences their analyses and interpretations of data


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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