BIOU3EG: Evolution & Genetics

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Luc Bussière 
Dr Mario Vallejo-MarinDr Tim Whalley

Course Objectives

  • To review the genetic basis of heredity for both Mendelian and quantitative characters
  • To explain classical transmission genetics and discuss this in the context of genes
  • To discuss molecular biology and the genetic control of development
  • To develop a basic understanding of macromolecular interactions in the context of gene expression and biological information flow, particularly as applied to development
  • To use laboratory and computer skills in studying genetic and molecular biological processes
  • To review the overwhelming scientific evidence for biological evolution
  • To explore how selection influences the genetic composition of a population
  • To understand the basic principles involved in reconstructing the relationships among species
  • To review the current understanding of how species are originated and how biological diversity arises

Learning Outcomes

  • An integrated understanding of transmission and population genetics
  • An understanding of the basic mechanisms of molecular biology and how molecular interactions control developmental biology
  • Development of practical skills in molecular biology
  • An understanding of the mechanisms of heredity and evolution, and their consequences for population genetic structure and biodiversity
  • The ability to integrate genetic and ecological processes in the evolution of biological diversity
  • The acquisition of generic skills in the synthesis of scientific information
  • Enhancement of written communication skills


  • SCE “H” or GCE “A” in Biology, Chemistry or Physics and Standard Grade 1,2,3 in Mathematics

Teaching Programme

25 x 1 hour lectures, 3 per week
3 x compulsory laboratory-based practical classes of 3-4 hours duration

Lecture Topics

Introductory Genetics (Dr. Luc Bussière approx. 5 lectures): These lectures introduce the module and provide an overview of its motivation, topics covered, objectives, and methods of evaluation. I will list and explain the essay topics and outline our expectations for the essay, and provide hints on resources for conducting the research required for this exercise. I will then introduce the study of genetics, covering both Mendelian genetics and more complex patterns of inheritance, and provide a platform for subsequent material in the module on the chromosomal basis of inheritance and evolutionary biology.
Lectures: Introduction; Mitosis, meiosis, and sex; Mendelian genetics; More complex patterns of inheritance; Quantitative genetics.

Molecular Biology (Dr. Tim Whalley – approx. 10 lectures + 1 review session): These lectures will focus on the flow of information from genes through to proteins. They will discuss DNA structure and modifications, transcription and its control in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The lectures will discuss how the differentiated tissues characteristic of multicellular organisms arise and how development is controlled at the genetic level.
Lectures: Transcription, Operons, Genome Structure and Rearrangements, Eukaryotic Transcriptional Control Mechanisms, Molecular Basis of Developmental Biology

Evolutionary Biology (Dr. Luc Bussière – approx. 6 lectures + 1 review session): These lectures will introduce the evolutionary paradigm underlying modern biology. They will discuss how multiple evolutionary mechanisms shape population genetic structure and biodiversity in general. Topics will include the modern evolutionary synthesis, natural selection, population genetics, sexual selection and the evidence for evolution.
Lectures: Darwin, Wallace, and the modern synthesis; Evolution by natural selection; Population genetics; Sexual selection; The overwhelming evidence for evolution.

Speciation and phylogenetics (Dr. Mario Vallejo-Marin – approx. 4 lectures): These lectures will cover the basics of speciation and phylogenetic reconstruction, two of the most active areas in current biological research. Phylogenies are the "family trees" of species and other taxa and allow us to understand historical relationships between species. The study of speciation involves uncovering the patterns and processes resulting in reproductive isolation between incipient taxa and the subsequent cessation of gene flow among them. Studies of the origin of species provide a good opportunity to illustrate how genetic and ecological processes interact to generate biological diversity.
Lectures: Introduction to phylogenetics; Molecular tools; Speciation; Adaptive radiations.

It is STRONGLY recommended that you attend ALL lectures as material that is not necessarily contained in either the course text or web material will be discussed. We will keep a register of lecture attendance. Some sections feature online quizzes on material from previous lectures. Past experience has showed that students find it very difficult to review material by relying solely on notes. Please note that the web material and textbooks contain information that will not be discussed in detail during the lectures but which might be examined.


Communication concerning administrative matters should be directed to Dr. Bussière. Communication on course content should be directed to the appropriate instructor. Any written communication that is not in formal English may be ignored.


Some lab exercises will run for 2 consecutive weeks to accommodate everyone. You will be required to attend only one session for each practical. You will need to sign up for your practical sessions in advance using Succeed. We will announce the availability of these sign-up sheets in the lectures and on Succeed. Please remember to bring calculators and lab coats with you when you attend a practical exercise.

1)         Mitosis, meiosis, and mapping.

2)         Transcriptional control: the lac operon of E. coli.

3)         Heterozygous advantage.

Most of the practicals will be assessed. Attendance is compulsory for all practicals, including those that are not assessed, and material from all practicals will be covered in the final exam. The reports for practical exercises MUST be written using a word processor, because all reports need to be submitted in both hard copy and via Succeed. Deadlines for practical submission will be announced during the practicals.


You will have to write an essay from a choice of topics presented to you in the introductory lecture of the module. Essays should be submitted word-processed, double spaced and single sided. Detailed formatting instructions and advice on essay preparation are available in the online essay guide posted on Succeed. Essays that do not adhere to these instructions will be severely penalized. You must submit an electronic version through Succeed so that your essay can be evaluated using plagiarism-checking software. All submitted work should be your own and it is NOT acceptable to place large portions of text from a source such as a book within quotation marks. This constitutes plagiarism and will also be strictly penalized.

Online Quizzes

During some sections of the course, you will be quizzed on material covered in previous lectures. These quizzes will be accessible through Succeed, and feature a few questions randomly selected from a test bank. You will have a limited amount of time to complete the quizzes. You will also be asked to complete surveys before and after the evolution lectures so that we can learn about what you already know about evolutionary biology, and the influence of the course on your views. These surveys will not be assessed (i.e., they don’t count towards your final mark) but you will need to complete them before you will gain access to web material for this portion of the course.


There will be a module examination at the end of semester. It will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions.

Reading List

Strongly recommended:
Biology 8th Edition by Campbell and Reece, published by Benjamin Cummings. You should already have a copy of this textbook from first year.
Evolution 2nd edition by Futuyma, published by Sinauer. This book contains much more detail than Campbell and Reece, particularly for sections on basic genetics, evolution, speciation, and phylogenetics.
Supplementary reading materials will be suggested during lectures or posted on Succeed.

Course Notes

Lecture notes will not be distributed during this course. Online material and further information can be found at the Succeed site for the course.

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