University of Technology Sydney

91161 Cell Biology and Genetics

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science: Life Sciences
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks


This subject provides an introduction to the basic concepts of cell biology with a focus on cell structure and function, biological molecules, genetic code and theories of inheritance. The subject aims to develop students' professional skills through the introduction of a range of basic laboratory, analytical and quantitative skills used to investigate the cell structure and the functional significance of their sub-cellular organisation. Students also learn how to utilise modern library resources to find and review published research literature, evaluate its content and significance, and create both written and oral presentations that can be used to communicate core scientific concepts. After completing this subject, students should be able to gather, evaluate and apply necessary information relevant to a scientific problem.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Describe and explain fundamental concepts of biomolecules, cell structure, cell cycle, cellular processes, genetics, and the importance of water to life.
2. Communicate, in oral and written formats, fundamental concepts of Cell Biology and Genetics in a clear and concise manner to a target audience with basic (high school) scientific knowledge.
3. Accurately follow experimental procedures (methods) to examine biomolecules in a laboratory setting.
4. Analyse scientific data (experimental and published writings) and come to the correct, reasoned conclusion.
5. Present scientific data in graphical, tabular and written formats.
6. Research a specific scientific topic relevant to Cell Biology and Genetics, including literature searches of published materials.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of following course intended learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate theoretical and technical knowledge of broad science concepts and explain specialised disciplinary knowledge. (1.1)
  • Evaluate scientific evidence and apply effective experimental design and/or mathematical reasoning, analysis, and critical thinking to apply science and/or mathematic methodologies to real world problems. (2.1)
  • Work autonomously or in teams to address workplace or community problems utilising best scientific practice, with consideration to safety requirements and ethical guidelines. (3.1)
  • Present and communicate complex ideas and justifications using appropriate communication approaches from a variety of methods (oral, written, visual) to communicate with discipline experts, scientists, industry, and the general public. (5.1)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Graduate Attribute 1.0 - Disciplinary knowledge

An understanding of the nature, practice & application of the chosen science discipline.

  • Fundamental disciplinary and technical knowledge in cellular biology and genetics will be gained from lectures, course texts and online materials and participation in practical exercises. This knowledge will be assessed both during and at the conclusion of the subject by disciplinary knowledge assessments.

Graduate Attribute 2.0 - Research, inquiry, and critical thinking

Encompasses problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis attributes, and an understanding of the scientific method knowledge acquisition.

  • An appreciation of critical and independent thinking by objective criticism, logical thought and problem-solving that are considered to be the foundations of the scientific method will be gained by participation in a series of practicals that support learning of key cell biology and genetics concepts. This will be assessed by completion of worksheets for each practical.
  • The gathering, evaluating and applying of information relevant to a scientific problem and an appreciation of the existence of different sources and types of information, such as peer-reviewed publications, databases, research and review articles, textbooks, catalogues and technical reference books will also contribute to the subject enquiry-orientated approach. This will be achieved by completion of and assessment of both an oral presentation and a mini poster assignment that will be supported by dedicated research skills workshops.

Graduate Attribute 3 - Professional, ethical, and social responsibility

The ability to acquire, develop, employ and integrate a range of technical, practical and professional skills, in appropriate and ethical ways within a professional and societal context, autonomously and collaboratively and across a range of disciplinary and professional areas.

e.g. Time management skills, personal organisation skills, teamwork skills, computing skills, laboratory skills, data handling, quantitative and graphical literacy skills.

  • The application of numerical and analytical skills at a level appropriate to scientific practice for a stage 1 undergraduate student will support development of this graduate attribute. You will develop professional skills in a range of basic laboratory techniques and be assessed by completion of lab worksheets that include analysis of data, creation of tables & graphs and answering of specific questions related to the practicals.
  • An understanding of the observational and experimental character of science and development of basic skills in field and laboratory techniques and experimental design will also constitute an integral part of the practicals with assessment being based on careful completion of the required protocols and accurate reporting of your outcomes in the laboratory worksheets.
  • Management of workload required for scientific based practice and professional work will involve preparation for practicals and contributions to group based parts of the practicals. Assessment will be via several pre-practical preparation exercises and on your observed in-practical participation and contributions.

Graduate Attribute 5.0 - Communication

A fundamental understanding of the different forms of communication - writing, reading, speaking, listening, as well as, visual and graphical - within science and beyond and the ability to apply these appropriately and effectively for different audiences.

  • A level of spoken and written communication skills in the presentation of scientific research and data commensurate with the expected foundation level of stage 1 undergraduate student will be gained by preparation of an oral and written assignment based on a published scientific article. Assessment will be based on clear presentation in both formats to academic staff and student peers.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject adopts both teacher and student-led approaches to help you understand and apply the concepts of Cell Biology and Genetics. You will be encouraged to learn via a blended approach of watching pre-recorded lectures (~1.5 hours per lecture) that will be complemented by extensive use of online resources and attending the live Zoom Q&A lectures to discuss the lecture material further, laboratory practicals (5 x 3 hours) and participation in workshops (varies).

Q&A Lectures: 11 x 1.5 hour

In this subject, you will learn the basic concepts of Cell Biology and Genetics through watching pre-recorded lectures. You will get to meet your lecturer live via Zoom to discuss any lecture content in detail. The lectures will clarify complex descriptions and terminology of complicated topics. You will be required to use your time outside of the classroom to review and understand the lecture content with materials provided on CANVAS. You can also engage in online learning modules (Mastering Biology) associated with the lecture content. These modules will involve a self-administered mini quiz followed by direct online feedback on your performance with the opportunity to immediately review subject material needed for improved performance in a subsequent retesting. This will provide context for early and ongoing feedback.

Laboratory Practicals: 5x 3 hour

You will be strongly encouraged to attend and participate in 5 practical sessions, each of 3 hours duration. These sessions will occur (i) in a technology-integrated laboratory and involve hands-on experiments. These sessions will develop your understanding of practical laboratory skills and illustrate concepts of both qualitative and quantitative techniques/analysis commonly utilised in laboratories. The practical exercises will be based on experimental testing of biological materials, and modelling of biological structures and process flows. Laboratory-based exercises are based on individual work.

Workshops: 2 x 2 hour Computer Workshop, 1x 3 hour Workshops, 1x 1 hour Library Workshop (optional)

In the Computer Workshop (Workshop 1), you will be guided by a Teaching Associate in class. The workshop will be structured so that in the first half of the class you will pick your poster topic and learn how to search the literature to find the article you will present. You will learn how to identify the important information from the article and use this to create an electronic poster of the article. You will also be provided with an online instruction sheet and a detailed marking rubric of the assignment to ensure you understand the outcomes required.

In Workshop 2, you will be guided by a Teaching Associate in class. You are expected to come to class with a draft copy of your poster (electronic or printed) and have this peer-reviewed by your fellow students. This peer-review will be facilitated by the Teaching Associates and follow a developed worksheet that will give formative feedback to you. You will then be asked to self-reflect on this feedback by writing one paragraph under the given feedback, describing how the feedback can improve your work. Teaching Associates will acknowledge students who have doubts about the accuracy of the feedback given and will encourage any such students to research further, and come to their own evidence-based conclusions. In addition, online resources will be added to CANVAS to assist in your knowledge of scientific articles and how to create a scientific poster.

In the final workshop (Workshop 3), you will give an oral presentation based on the scientific poster that you were guided to complete in the previous workshops towards the end of the session. For the oral presentation, you will be required to present your poster in front of your peers and Teaching Associates for grading.

There is a 1-hour Library Workshop that will help you further develop your research for your posters. This workshop will instruct you on how to navigate the UTS library for your poster research and answer any questions you have before Workshop 2 where you need to present your draft poster.

CANVAS and Zoom

The use of CANVAS and Zoom is integral to the subject and you are expected to log in regularly to receive information relating to scheduling, assessment tasks, lecture and laboratory times, to participate in the online quizzes, and to access online resources. You should also check Discussion Board regularly to ask/discuss topics of interest related to the content of the subject.

Content (topics)

The major topics covered in this subject are:

1. Cell structure and cellular processes including:

Basic cell structure including organelles of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.

  • Cell membrane transport
  • Cellular communication
  • Energy and metabolism
  • Water and basic acid/base concepts as they relate to living organisms

2. Properties of Biomolecules including the structure, function and techniques for quantitative measurements of:

  • Carbohydrate
  • Protein
  • Lipid
  • Nucleic acid

3. Understanding of basic genetics including:

  • Concept of genetic code, chemical structure and regulation through transcription and translation.
  • Cell division (meiosis and mitosis), differentiation and cell cycle
  • Theories of inheritance, including population genetics, evolutionary relationship and Mendelian and Non-Mendelian theories.
  • Diseases pertaining to inherited diseases as well as diseases relating to gene expression or mutation.
  • Understand the concept of the genetics of sex and gender identity


Assessment task 1: Practical Reports/Datasheets


This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

2. Research, inquiry, and critical thinking

3. Professional, ethical and social responsibility


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

3, 4 and 5

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

2.1 and 3.1

Type: Laboratory/practical
Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 30%

You will be assessed on:

  • Ability to undertake simple experimental protocols that involve solutions and instrumentation.
  • Ability to correctly answer short-answer questions, correctly perform and demonstrate workings out of set calculations, draw and label graphs, record, interpret and analyse data collected for each experiment.
  • Ability to understand the experimental protocols demonstrated online and ability to complete the associated online quizzes.
  • Ability to follow the experimental protocols, lab etiquette, and safety procedures.

Assessment task 2: Poster


This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge

5. Communication


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

1, 2 and 6

This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):

1.1 and 5.1

Type: Project
Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 25%

You will be assessed on ability to:

  • source relevant published information
  • prepare an electronic poster of the publication that clearly identifies the main ideas and content (assessed early to provide feedback)
  • write clear and well-argued descriptions of the topic
  • prepare and present a poster according to the guidelines
  • give a 3-minute oral presentation of the research topic displayed on the poster

See poster assignment guidelines and checklist for further details (available on CANVAS).

Assessment task 3: Disciplinary Knowledge Assessment


This assessment task contributes to the development of the following graduate attributes:

1. Disciplinary knowledge


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):


This assessment task contributes to the development of course intended learning outcome(s):


Type: Quiz/test
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 45%

You will be assessed on:

  • Ability to correctly answer multiple choice/short answer questions that cover both theory and practical aspects of the subject.

Minimum requirements

  • You are strongly recommended to attend all lectures and laboratory sessions. For laboratory sessions, a record of attendance will be taken via submission of completed datasheets.
  • Check the assessment schedule for dates and content of the assignments. You need to check in regularly whether you have an upcoming assessment item.
  • In order to pass this subject the sum total of all assessment components must be greater than or equal to 50%.

Recommended texts

Campbell Biology (2020) 12th Edition, Australian Version (Pearson)

Other resources

Alternative Text:

  • Raven PH, Johnson GB, Losos JB, Mason KA and Singer SR. (2008) Biology 8th Edition (McGraw-Hill)
  • Brooker RJ, Widmaier EP, Graham LE and Stiling PD. (2008) Biology (McGraw-Hill)
  • Sadava D, Heller HC, Orians GH, Purves WK and Hillis DM. (2008) Life – The Science of Biology, 8th Edition (Sinauer/ Freeman)
  • Freeman S. (2005) Biological Science. 2nd Edition (Pearson / Prentice Hall)

Additional Text:

  • Knox RB, Ladiges P, Evans B and Saint R. (2005) Biology 3rd Edition (McGraw-Hill)
  • Brooker RJ. (2005) Genetics: Analysis and Principles, 2nd Edition (McGraw-Hill)
  • Lodish H, Berk A, Kaiser CA, Krieger M, Scott MP, Bretscher A, Ploegh H and Matsudaira P. (2008) Molecular Cell Biology 6th Edition (WH Freeman & Co)
  • Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K and Walter P. (2002) Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th Edition (Garland)
  • Alberts B, Bray D, Hopkin K, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K and Walter P. (2004) Essential Cell Biology, 2nd Edition (Garland)
  • Nelson DL and Cox MM. (2005) Lehninger - Principles of Biochemistry, 4th Edition (Freeman)

Additional Resource Text:

  • Garrett LK. (2007) Get Ready for Biology (Pearson/Benjamin Cummings)
  • Reed R, Holmes D, Weyers J and Jones A (2007) Practical Skills in Biomolecular Sciences 3rd Edition (Pearson/Benjamin Cummings)
  • Jones A, Reed R and Weyers J. (2007) Practical Skills in Biology 4th Edition (Pearson/Benjamin Cummings)
  • Lawrence E. (2008) Henderson’s Dictionary of Biology, 14th Edition (Pearson/Benjamin Cummings)