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Introduction to Cell Biology

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

All organisms on Earth, from the tiny microbes of hydrothermal vents to the giant trees of the rainforest, are made of the same biological building blocks. The cells we are all made from contain a code within their DNA that is amazingly simple yet leads to the diverse array of life that we see all around us. Study the fundamental aspects of cell biology, from the structure and function of cells, to deciphering the genetic code.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

This course is suitable for complete beginners and no previous knowledge is assumed.

Content of Course

The course will begin by exploring the main components of cells and the extraordinary diversity of cell type. For example, a red blood cell, which carries oxygen around your body, is only 0.008mm in diameter and is so flexible that it can squeeze itself through the narrowest of blood vessels which are only 1 cell thick. This is in complete opposition to the nerve cells which can be up to 1m long and carry electrical signals from your body to your brain.

In the following weeks, the course will focus on how heritable information is stored within the DNA and how the genetic code can be “read” by the cell to produce proteins. The structure and function of proteins will be considered along with how even tiny alterations in the genetic code can result in major changes to the resulting protein (mutations).

We will then study how organisms grow and reproduce as we look at cell replication and division, linking back to our learning on heritability of traits. Students will use Punnett Squares to make simple predictions about the likelihood of offspring developing particular traits from the parent organism.

The course will culminate with a study of innovative and exciting research being carried out by scientists at the University of Edinburgh.

Teaching method(s)

Classroom sessions will be a mixture of face-to-face teaching, workshops, discussions and small-group activities. Students will be encouraged to actively participate throughout. Learning outcomes will be clearly communicated, and links will be provided to learning activities that students can engage with in their own time.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • State the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and name the main organelles in plant and animal cells;

  • Describe the chemistry that allows DNA to be a large, stable molecule containing heritable information;

  • Outline the processes of cell division by mitosis and meiosis using key vocabulary to describe the basic phases;

  • Determine the sequence of a gene product using the genetic code;

  • Identify components of cell biology used by Research Groups at the University of Edinburgh.


Core Readings

Relevant reading material, websites and podcasts will be made available to enrolled students.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.