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Essential Biology: From Genomes to Organisms

Course Breakdown (2014)

Laboratory Component
Laboratories (x5): 20% 

Theory Component
Mid-Semester Test: 34%
Mastering Assignments: 4%
Quizzes: 2%
Exam: 40%

Course Information


Prescribed Textbook:
Campbell's Biology (10th ed) - Reece et al. (2015) 
UoA Course Website: link

Basic Information

The course guide for this paper did not contain very much text in some sections - some sections consisted entirely of diagrams which lecturers expected you to annotate during lectures. The 'Mastering' Assignments require you to log onto a website once a week or so and complete mini-assignments. Your total score on all the assignments (which are just simple MCQs, SAQs or mix-'n-match questions) is converted into a final grade out of 4 which finally contributes 4% to your grade. 

The MST tested the course content in the first half of the semester while the final exam examined content from the second half of the semester. This means that you do not need to study the content from the first half of the semester for the exam. 


Laboratory Component

BIOSCI101 consists of five laboratories which is attended every fortnight. Each lab has a short relatively straightforward prelab component which you do before attending the lab and hand in once you walk in, which also contributes to your final laboratory grade. Most laboratory work in BIOSCI101 consists of carrying out repetitive experiments such as determining rates of reaction as in the first laboratory (Enzymology) or identifying strains of bacteria by determining their growth rate in different culture sets in the second laboratory (Gene expression). Suggested readings are provided but are not necessary to do well in the laboratory. 
The labs were enjoyable and you could work at a reasonable pace and finish. Topics taught in lectures were reviewed that related to the lab during the lab so that you could answer the lab assignments


Lecture Content

Cellular and Molecular Biology

Taught by Dr Kate Angel in 8 lectures in 2015. A great lecturer to start the year off, her pace is slower than most other lecturers and most content required for the MST is on the slides. Sometimes she would go more in depth than her slides but as she will reiterate in reviews or FAQs, the content examined will be on the slides and in the course guide. Her content mostly revolves around eukaryotic cells and their components and function, including a large focus in the latter half protein synthesis and gene expression. Topics covered are as follows: microscopy, the cell, and cell organelles; chemical components of cells and macromolecules; cell membranes, cell junctions, and membrane transport; structure and component of proteins; enzymes; nucleic acids; protein synthesis; transcriptional control of gene expression. Most content you would have already covered in High School biology.



Taught by Dr Judy O’Brien in 4 lectures in 2015. Another easy-to-follow lecturer although the topic may be a bore to some! Examinable material is again mostly on the slides and also in notes written throughout the lecture by her which is available in recordings on the document camera if you’d prefer to just listen in the lecture. Topics covered are as follows: introduction to prokaryotes; gene expression control in bacteria; genetic diversity in bacteria; viruses. There are a few vocabulary to memorise but overall this section was not difficult. Dr O’Brien is known to use plenty of diagrams in her examinations, particularly details and labelling of the lac operon and virus replication cycles. 



Taught by Assoc. Professor Craig Miller in 7 lectures in 2015. A great lecturer, the pace picks up from here, particularly in that the course guide begins to contain large blocks of notes, unlike the previous sections which only contained diagrams. However it is important to note that the go to notes to study are from what he says in the lecture and the notes in his slides; the course guide is more there to reaffirm knowledge and to offer more support when confused. The course guide also contains fill in the blanks and blank chromosomes which you can follow along in the lecture and colour in from diagrams on the slide. In 2015 his section was separated between semester break therefore gave extra time to study and reinstate what was learnt. As with Dr Angel’s section, most of the content is a revision of basic genetics concepts taught in High School, however what may be new is the biotechnology lectures are the beginning of his series. Topics covered are as follows: Genetics and DNA technology; Eukaryotic reproduction; gene inheritance; chromosomal basis of inheritance; research applications.



Taught by Professor Scott Baker in 9 lectures in 2017. Quite a step up from the first half in terms of difficulty as the content seems to be jumpy and it becomes difficult to deduce what is examinable and what is extra information. Very content heavy particularly considering the other papers that are also ramping up at this time, however, looking at past exam papers are a good guide as to how to focus your studies. The course guide also has a lot of information but most of the examinable content is in the slides. Some content is covered in high school biology, however he introduces many new concepts at the beginning such as the history of evolution and systematic classifications. Although the level 3 NCEA biology curriculum mainly focussed on evolution, there are still many new concepts so do not neglect this lecture series. Topics covered are as follows: History leading up to Darwin; evidence of macroevolution and Darwin’s interpretation; genetic basis of evolution; maintenance and changes in the gene pool (variation); natural selection; the origin of species; phylogenetics; the descent of man; chance and necessity.



Taught by Dr Tony Hickey in 10 lectures. 2017 was the forth year of Dr Hickey teaching this course, therefore questions in exams previous to this time may not be an accurate representation of how he will examine his content.
This lecture series are as intensive as the last in that there are many notes in the course guide and lecture slides, which may seem overwhelming, but the main concepts are the most important, including substrates and products, as well as metabolic pathways and key organelle structures. Enzymes are not required to be memorised in BIOSCI101 (but is required in BIOSCI106!). Concepts are touched on in high school biology but are much more expanded in this series, including a large extent of vocabulary and numerical memorisation. Diagrams are quite useful for this topic, especially those in Campbell’s Biology, as the diagrams and visual representations in the lecture slides can be difficult to follow at times. The lecturer was very engaging and kept the topic interesting with the use of animations to show the processes, thus it is worth watching the lecture recording again to revising the content. Furthermore, it is also worth going over the video recording for tips on what is tested and extra detail on each process, especially with some lectures, what kind of experiments were done to discover the process.

​Topics covered are as follows: introduction to metabolism; bioenergetics; glycolysis; citric acid cycle; electron transport system; ATP synthesis; glucose and glycogen storage; blood glucose regulation; photosynthesis; the Calvin cycle.