Molecular biology looks at life in the microcosm. Cells are the fundamental units of life and they form the structural and functional basis of all lifeforms, be they unicellular, colonial or multicellular. It is the smallest entity that is embued with traits that we deem to be‘living’. Sub-cellular structures, such as isolated mitochondria and the Golgi Apparatus may be capable of performing molecular and biochemical reactions, but they are not considered to be living. Life itself is an emergent property - more than the sum of the components of living things.

Life may be considered to be the unique expression of a system of information flux. This biological information is stored, expressed and transmitted through the agency of cells. All of the processes responsible for life are ultimately‘ontrolled' by DNA. DNA controls life by acting as a blueprint for the construction of proteins, and that those proteins build cells which act as the basic physical units of all life. The DNA code is essentially immortal because it can be copied from generation to generation, and from cell to cell. Indeed, at the level of DNA and proteins, the huge diversity of life on this planet is remarkably similar in form and function.

A basic understanding of these ideas is essential to any modern biologist, from molecular botanists to ecologists. For instance, researchers in fields such as ecosystems science, behaviour and conservation biology now rely on DNA technologies to determine the interactions between individuals in populations. This course explores the basic concepts of cell and molecular biology. No prior knowledge in these areas is expected. All ideas will be presented from first principles. Welcome to the wonderful and strange world of the cell!


Sham Nair 2014