Duration: 3 years full time
UCAS code: C730
Institution code: R72
Duration: 4 years full time
UCAS code: C731
Institution code: R72
Campus: EghamView this course
Molecular Biology and Environmental Change (BSc)
Population growth, global industrialisation, natural hazards, food and resource security and climate change are among the greatest challenges faced in the 21st century, putting life on our planet under unprecedented strain.
BSc Molecular Biology and Environmental Change is a new degree designed to develop a strong scientific understanding of the core concepts of molecular biology and how these can be applied to develop new technologies to tackle the problems caused by environmental change.
Our flexible degree structure will develop your understanding of how biological principles can help develop sustainable solutions to 21st century challenges. Your degree will include core modules that are essential for the degree, plus a wide choice of optional modules to provide opportunities for you to specialise and tailor your degree to your study interests.
You’ll be taught by international research leaders across a broad range of topics, learning to apply and integrate molecular and environmental approaches to address societal challenges related to climate change, including food sustainability, energy production and organism resilience. You’ll also experience the thrill and challenge of an individual research project, designing your own experiments and driving your research forwards in well-equipped laboratories, guided by our expert academics. 100% of our research impact in the Department of Biological Sciences was judged to be 4* and 3* world-leading and internationally excellent in terms of its originality, significance and rigour in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF21). This places the department in the top 25% of departments nationally for research impact.
Over the course of three years you will develop your technical ability and research skills alongside problem-solving and quantitative analysis, as you learn how to be a bioscientist, from performing experiments, through evaluation of data, to presentation of results in both verbal and written formats.
You will graduate equipped with the specialist knowledge of ground-breaking latest advances and practical skills to tackle the scientific challenges of a rapidly changing world, ideally prepared for a career in your chosen field, or ready to progress into postgraduate study.
- Gain practical skills in molecular biology and molecular genetics to address the problems arising from environmental change
- Choose from a range of optional modules to tailor your degree to your interests
- Develop your technical ability and research skills alongside problem-solving and quantitative analysis, to equip you for a career in industry or research
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.
In this module you will develop an understanding of key scientific concepts and effective science communication. You will learn how to process and critique different forms of information, and how to communicate science to both scientific and non-scientific audiences using diverse media, forms and methods. You will also examine ethical issues surrounding research and intervention.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the fundamental chemistry of life processes and laboratory experiments. You will look at the basics of biological chemistry, including the chemical bonding and reactivity of important biomolecules, intermolecular forces, 3D structure and isomerism. You will analyse equilibria in acid/base biochemistry and solve related problems. You will also learn the basic biochemical lab techniques and carry out consequent data analysis.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basics of biochemistry. You will look at some of the key techniques for biochemical analysis, including spectroscopy, and the fundamentals of protein structure. You will examine structure / function relationships in myoglobin, hemoglobin and the serine proteases, and learn to solve biochemical kinetic problems using the Michaelis-Menten equation. You will also consider how to solve thermodynamic problems, including equilibrium constants.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the diversity and structure plants and fungi and how these can be used to reconstruct evolutionary history. You will look at the structure of the main Kingdoms of eukaryotes, examining their diversity and the relationships between the life-cycles of higher plants and fungi, and their single-cell or water-tied ancestors. You will consider the form, development and function, including photosynthesis, of higher plants, and then explore the relevance of plants to humans. You will gain practical experience in handling and observing preserved and live specimens, preparation of taxonomic keys, drawing, data analysis, interpretation and presentation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell biology and the key functions of these structures and organelles. You will look at the origin of life and the principles of natural selection and evolution. You will also learn the practical technique involved in microscopy, including fixation techniques for the analysis of cell ultrastructure and aseptic techniques for bacterial culture.
In this module you will develop an understanding of genes and their behaviour in individuals organisms, in populations, and at the molecular level within the cell. You will look cellular genetics with respect to mitosis, meiosis, inheritance and recombination, and consider the fundamentals of gene expression, its control, and DNA replication. You will examine genome organisation, transcription, and translation, and gain practical experience of using techniques in microscopy, including slide preparation for the observation of chromosomes.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the main concepts of classic protein biochemistry including protein purification, enzyme kinetics, and enzyme structure. You will look at the basic principles behind a number of protein purification techniques, and consider basic enzyme kinetics using the Michaelis-Menten equation and derived methods to analyse kinetic data. You will examine the underlying biochemistry of a variety of analytical methods and their applications in research and diagnostics, gaining practical experience in performing some of these methods in laboratory practicals. You will also analyse the concept of biochemical buffers and learn how to make these from stock solutions.
This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.
In this module you will develop an understanding of some of the key concepts in microbiology, including the study of bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. You will look at how microbes are distinguished and classified, and discuss bacterial growth and differentiation. You will examine the importance of microorganisms in health and disease, including human welfare issues such as opportunistic infections and the role of microorganisms in cancer.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the life cycle of flowering plants, considering their evolution, developmental and functional biology. You will examine the role and biology of meristems in the structure and building of a plant muticellular body, and the role and mode of action of plant hormones in coordinating development. You will also consider a range of environmental and biotic factors affecting plants, including light, time of day, temperature, drought, and other organisms, and how plants respond to the challenges they pose.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the molecular tools and techniques currently available to investigate the genetic diversity of a range of organisms. You will examine how genetically modified organisms can be produced via a number of methodologies, and will consider their application in areas such as crop improvement, pest management, and vaccine development. You will also look at how molecular genetics has improved our understanding of human inherited diseases and led to the development of human gene therapies.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the chemical structure of DNA and RNA, and how genes are organised and expressed. You will look at gene characterisation using recombinant DNA technology, and will consider DNA as a template for RNA synthesis. You will also become familiar with molecular biology techniques that are widely used in the life sciences, including the preparation and handling of purified DNA, restriction enzyme digestions, and polymerase chain reaction.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key energy-generating reaction of photosynthesis and how storage polysaccharides are produced by plants from carbon dioxide and water. You will look at the key biochemical aspects of the nitrogen biosphere cycle and how plants assimilate nitrogen and produce aromatic amino acids. You will examine molecular targets for herbicides in plants, approaches to weed control management, and sustainable nitrogen for agriculture. You will consider the major groups of secondary plant compounds and their roles in plant function and chemical ecology. You will also integrate knowledge of biochemistry, metabolic pathways, chemical ecology, modern agriculture and the use of plant-derived compounds in the pharmaceutical industry, and analyse their importance for strategies to address global challenges.
You will carry out an individual laboratory or theoretical investigation, supervised by an appropriate member of staff, who will provide guidance throughout. You will apply the knowledge and skills learned throughout your studies, and learn to organise data in a logical, presentable and persuasive way. You will produce a report, around 8,000 words in length, and will deliver an oral presentation with a summary of your findings.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of climate change on the interaction between plants and the environment. You will critically evaluate the application of novel technologies to crop improvement and assess the relationship between growth and responses to the environment. You will also consider issues surrounding human uses of plants and conservation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the importance of seeds and fruits for food chain security, the seed industry, and ecosystem conservation. You will look at the principles and importance of seed banking and the seed conservation work at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank to mitigate against climate change. You will examine the developmental and biochemical processes of seed storage reserve deposition, germination and reserve mobilisation, including the environmental control of seed germination. You will analyse the key advantages of the seed habit, considering the morphological diversity of modern seeds and fruits which have evolved.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the structure-function relationships in proteins, and how new technologies are being used to exploit protein sequence data. You will look at how genome-wide analyses can be used to examine regulation in biological systems, and consider modes of specific recognition in mediating protein interactions.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key concepts of ecology and conservation, working up from organisms to populations and their interactions, through to communities and ecosystems. You will look at ecological patterns and processes and consider the fundamental interactions between species and their abiotic environment. You will also gain practical experience in using ecological sampling techniques, carrying out biostatistical analyses and experimental design.
In this module you will develop an understanding of global biomes and ecosystems as well as biogeochemical cycles and energy flow through them. You will look at the key features of UK ecosystems and consider current ecological issues. You will examine the major principles of ecological science and gain practical experience in using sampling techniques, biostatistical analyses and experiemental design. You will also analyse variation in climate around the globe, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystsems, ecosystem services and habitat conservation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key methologies used in cell biology, becoming familar with modern microscopy techniques and live cell imaging studies. You will look at the basic mechanisms that regulate the cell cycle and the regulatory mechanisms for DNA synthesis and mitosis. You will examine mitochondria and chlorpolast organelle functions, and the principles of polar bodies and asymmetric cell division. You will assess the basic mechanisms underlying cell shape and mobility, and consider the evolutionary constrains of cellular functions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the effects of herbivorous insects on plants and the ways in which plants defend themselves against attack. You will consider how insects can be beneficial to plants, examining their role in pollination, and how fungi mediate interactions between insects and their hosts, including pathogens, endophytes and mycorrhizas.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to design and analyse ecological experiments. You will perform simple investigations into several different taxonomic groups such as mammals, invertebrates and plants, and consider the difficulties of designing experiments in the field, compared to controlled conditions. You will gain experience with techniques such as field sampling, identification using keys, and quantitative population estimation, as you carry out fieldwork in and around the College campus, with some daily excursions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the use of statistical methods in biological sciences. You will examine how questions in biology can be answered using quantitative methods, looking at key concepts of statistical sampling and experimental design. You will consider how to select appropriate tests, how to apply them, and identify what can be deduced from them.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how organisms have changed through time. You will look at the historical origins of the modern concept of evolution, examining the evidence for it and the processes that have shaped faunas and floras. You will consider Darwinism and its development, the origin and maintenance of variation, and adaptation and selection. You will analyse how evolution can be studied using phylogenetic methods and the mechanisms of speciation, with a focus on human evolution.
In this module you will develop an understanding of protein structure, protein folding in vivo, and the principles of protein engineering and protein-protein interaction. You will look at methods for the separation, purification, detection, and structural analysis of proteins, gaining practical experience in using techniques such as SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. You will also examine mechanisms of enzyme catalysis and regulation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of drug-receptor interactions and the methods used to characterise drug action. You will look at the factors that influence drug action and drug toxicity within the body, examining the concepts of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. You will consider the pharmacology of a number of major drug classes, including antihypertensives, antidepressants, analgesics, general and local anaesthetics and drugs affecting the autonomic system.
This module develops an appreciation of the historical context which underpins theory concerning environmental history, present-day environmental problems, and the prediction of future environmental changes. Practical training in laboratory methods relevant to testing such theories is involved, and you will train for readiness to undertake fieldwork and third-year independent studies (dissertations) in a range of topical research themes in Quaternary environmental change. Laboratory practicals are designed to give experience in using a number of fundamental methods used in the analysis of stratigraphical records, which underpin the reconstruction of former environmental conditions. The accent is on the careful observation and logging of data, and on precision and accuracy in description and analysis of the processes leading to rapid environmental change. Training is provided in data presentation and in the construction of scientific reports, as well as other key skills in the field of quaternary Science, such as the use of electronic resources and bespoke software packages for bibliographic searching, inspection of large databases of relevant palaeoenvironmental information and practical approaches such as radiocarbon calibration.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the major threats to biodiversity, including habitat loss and fragmentation, alien species, global climate change, intensive agriculture, pollution, and over-harvesting. You will look at the population and ecological processes that lead to species and habitat decline, and assess how conservation biology can be applied to redress this. You will also examine current areas of research in conservation biology, their ethical implications, and agri-environmental management plans.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the variety of rhythms in nature and their importance. You will look at the rhythms throughout biology, in microbes, plants and animals, and consider the impact of the internal circadian clock on behaviour, physiology, environmental responses and wider implications for fitness. You will examine how the clock interacts with environmental signals, how the clock can be set to the right time, how the clock can moderate environmental responses, and how the clock can allow measurement of day length for the timing of annual events.
In this module you will develop an understanding of human metabolism, physiology and immunology. You will look at the main features of human energy metabolism, including nutrition, the importance of vitamins, and the biochemical basis of specific disorders, such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity. You will consider the disorders associated with lipid dysfunction and examine other metabolic disorders such as hypercholesterolemia.
In this module you will develop an understanding of medical microbiology with particular reference to bacteria and pathogenic eukaryotes. You will look at pathogen mechanisms for infection, the host immune response to infection, vaccine development, gastrointestinal health and disease, resistance to antibiotics, anti-parasite chemotherapy and the genetic and biochemical validation of parasite drug targets in the kinetoplastidae. You will examine the role of probiotics in health and disease, and consider a range of microbiological and molecular diagnostics techniques.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the transformation technologies used in the study of gene expression, gene therapy and biotechnological applications of genetically modified organisms. You will consider how molecular biology research is employed in a range of systems, including animal and plant models, as well as the simple social amoeba, Dictyostelium. You will also analyse the use of molecular genetics in the study of circadian rhythms.
This module aims to provide a detailed discussion of the science behind global warming. In particular, we will focus on three main themes. Firstly, how do we know that global warming is really occurring and how do we know that it is down to us? The first part is, therefore, a series of debates that address the main issues that are proposed by climate sceptics and present the scientific arguments that may refute them. These lectures cover issues such as; 1) how do we distinguish between “natural” and “human” climate changes, 2) when did humans start to influence the climate system and how do we know, and 3) how are key global warming datasets, such as the “Hockey Stick curve” generated and what are the assumptions that it is based upon. The second part will look at the prediction of climate change. What are the current predictions for future warming? What are they based upon and how robust are they? Finally, we will deal with the impacts of this global warming on different components of the Earth system, namely the cryosphere (ice sheet collapse and sea level change), extreme weather events (such as hurricanes), ecosystems (desertification etc) and the response of different parts of Europe to changing temperature and rainfall regimes.
Teaching & assessment
You will take 120 credits of modules each year, including those that are mandatory and provide the core for the subject of molecular biology and environmental change and also electives that allow you to diversify your interests around related topics.
Your teaching will be a mixture of lectures, practicals, problem-solving classes and online activities. Laboratory classes form a major part of the first and second year and you will conduct experiments that are integral to molecular biology and applied molecular genetics, developing the technical and analytical skills that are fundamental to being able to develop scientific solutions to the global challenges facing the planet. In your final year you will conduct a research project that will enable you to hone your skills in critical analysis, research planning and development, project and time management, all highly valued, transferable skills.
All students are assigned a personal tutor for advice and support through the duration of their degree programme, with regular small group and individual meetings. Coursework activities spread across the year make up 25-30% of your marks, and include a range of assessments such as online worksheets, reports, quizzes, essays, mock grant applications, creation of leaflets, posters and presentations, and using online data analysis software. Most modules include a written exam assessment, and some include an assessment of practical skills. The final year project is entirely coursework based.
The second and third year outcomes contribute one third and two-thirds of the final degree classification.
A Levels: BBB-BBC
- Including Biology plus another science from either Chemistry, Maths or Physics. A Pass is required in the practical element of all Science A-levels taken.
- At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.
Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university, you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.
We accept T-levels for admission to our undergraduate courses, with the following grades regarded as equivalent to our standard A-level requirements:
- AAA* – Distinction (A* on the core and distinction in the occupational specialism)
- AAA – Distinction
- BBB – Merit
- CCC – Pass (C or above on the core)
- DDD – Pass (D or E on the core)
Where a course specifies subject-specific requirements at A-level, T-level applicants are likely to be asked to offer this A-level alongside their T-level studies.
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall, with no subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. No subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.
Undergraduate preparation programme
For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, for this undergraduate degree, the Royal Holloway International Study Centre offers an International Foundation Year programme designed to develop your academic and English language skills.
Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Your future career
You will graduate equipped with the specialist knowledge and practical skills to tackle the scientific challenges of a rapidly changing world, ideally prepared for a scientific or technical career in your chosen field. You will develop a range of transferable skills that are highly attractive to future employers, including project management, time management, team working, and resilience.
Fees, funding & scholarships
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250
EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £25,200
Other essential costs***: TBC
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.
*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25, the fee is £9,250 for that year.
**This figure is the fee for students starting a degree in the academic year 2023/24, and is provided here as a guide. The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you are classified as an international student. Please see the fees and funding page for more information.
Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions.
***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2023/24 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.