BCHM218 - Molecular Biology

Course Description:

BCHM 218 is a foundational course to the study of molecular biology. It focuses on the structural and functional properties of DNA, RNA and proteins, and their relationships to one another; particularly those needed to reliably pass genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein, and from one generation to the next. This course also examines how some of these processes become compromised, leading to the development of human diseases, and how to study and manipulate these processes in research settings. This experience will arise through the following four main elements of inquiry:

Section 1: What are the properties of and interactions between genetic information molecules?
Section 2: How are genomes organized and protected, and how can they be studied?
Section 3: How do organisms copy and edit genomes, and how is this done in a research setting?
Section 4: What are the different ways that organisms, and researchers, regulate gene expression?

Students will use molecular simulation and animation activities such as PyMol and LaunchPad within the online eText to model and mimic the behaviour of molecules. Practice questions are available in the LearningCurve module of the eText to assist students in preparing for quizzes and exams. Each section will also be accompanied by problem-based learning exercises (PBLs), where students can actively engage with the learning material, as well as online quizzes that will assess their knowledge of each section.

Topics Covered

DNA, RNA and Proteins: Information Molecules of Living Systems
The chemical basis of information molecules (DNA, RNA and proteins)
Protein Structure and Folding
DNA and RNA structure and hybridization
Genes and genomes
Genome packaging
DNA replication
DNA recombination
Transcription: DNA-dependent synthesis of RNA
RNA processing
Protein Synthesis
Regulation of gene expression

FIgure 1-1 (Cox et al. Molecular Bioloy): 'Characteristics of living systems'.

Course Objectives:

After you complete this course, you will be able to:

1. explain how biomolecules (DNA, RNA, protein) function and interact to support life;
2. critically assess primary research articles that address current problems and questions in biomedical and molecular sciences;
3. apply research-based theories to solve problems related to biochemistry and molecular biology;
4. use simulations and computer-based multimedia to model and mimic the behavior of biomolecules when conditions can be controlled in an in vitro-type experimental situation, and within the context of simulated cells; and
5. collaborate with peers through problem-based learning activities and peer review to analyze and solve case studies related to course content, and to articulate clear solutions to these problems individually and as a group.




Molecular Biology Principles and Practice” 2nd Edition


Michael M. Cox 
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jennifer Doudna 
University of California, Berkeley
Michael O'Donnell 
Rockefeller University

A custom version of this text is available for purchase at the campus bookstore.

The textbook includes access to Launchpad - an fully online version of the text and other virtual media. LaunchPad is required to access quizzes and exams for this course.

The online portion of our course is open for student registration.

To register for the course go to:

PLEASE bookmark the page to make it easy to return to.

To navigate and start using LaunchPad please consult the Get Started guide and/or view this video.

If you have problems registering, purchasing, or logging in, please contact Customer Support. You can reach a representative during the hours of operation listed below by one of the following:

through the online form
by chat (via the online form, for student access and payment inquiries)

Or by phone at 1 (800) 936-6899

Customer Support Hours of Operation:

Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Friday 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Saturday 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.


NOTE: You must purchase access to the BCHM218 course on LaunchPad in order to access online quizzes and exams.


Resources Available to Help You

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PBLs (4):  worth a total of 10% of final mark

Quizzes (4):  worth a total of 20% of final mark

Midterm (1):  30% of final mark (on Lectures 1-18)

Final Exam:  40% of final mark (non-cumulative)

Absences from quizzes or exams: If you are unable to take any test, inform the course coordinator as soon as possible. It is the student’s responsibility to supply signed medical certificates to the coordinator. Make-up exams are provided only for the Final Exam, and only for students who miss this exam for documented medical reasons or academic conflicts. Make-up exams are not provided under any circumstances for the mid-term exam. Individual cases should be discussed with the course coordinator.

Grading Method:

All components of this course will receive numerical percentage marks.  The final grade you receive for the course will be derived by converting your numerical course average to a letter grade according to Queen’s Official Grade Conversion Scale:

Queen’s Official Grade Conversion Scale

Grade  Numerical Course Average (Range)

A+            90-100

A              85-89

A-             80-84

B+            77-79

B              73-76

B-             70-72

C+            67-69

C              63-66

C-             60-62

D+            57-59

D              53-56

D-             50-52

F              49 and below


Suggested Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend on average, about 9-10 hours per week (120 hours per term) on the course.

Although the lectures will provide the bulk of the course content, we want students to take an active role in their learning. Your approach to this course should be more than just memorizing molecular biological elements and concepts, but should strive to understand how experiments designed to comprehend them are done and why they are done that way. Students are expected to read the assigned readings and are encouraged to ask any questions on any aspect about the lectures. Research into other papers/books or websites will help with your studying, and more importantly help strengthen your independent learning skills. We also encourage interaction and discussion of the material with classmates and, where possible, will attempt to facilitate group-based learning in tutorials to improve your understanding of the material.

It is assumed that you have a basic working knowledge of the following:

1. The structures of DNA and RNA:

a) How the building blocks of DNA and RNA are similar and how they are different.

b) The 3-D structure of DNA.

c) How dideoxynucleotides are used to determine DNA sequences.

d) The difference between a gene and a genome.

2. Techniques for manipulating and characterizing cloned DNA.

a) The role of restriction endonucleases in gene cloning.

b) How DNA fragments can be ligated into plasmid vectors, introduced into recipient cells, and presence selected in a cell population.

c) How PCR works and how it can used to generate enough starting material for cloning.

d) How DNA sequencing works and its practical applications.

Academic Integrity:

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Academic integrity is constituted by the five core fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility (see www.academicintegrity.org). These values are central to the building, nurturing and sustaining of an academic community in which all members of the community will thrive. Adherence to the values expressed through academic integrity forms a foundation for the "freedom of inquiry and exchange of ideas" essential to the intellectual life of the University (see the Senate Report on Principles and Priorities: (http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/policies/senate/report-principles-and-priorities).


Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the regulations concerning academic integrity and for ensuring that their assignments conform to the principles of academic integrity. Information on academic integrity is available in the Arts and Science Calendar (see Academic Regulation 1 http://www.queensu.ca/calendars/artsci/Academic_Regulations.html), on the Arts and Science website (see http://www.queensu.ca/calendars/artsci/Regulation_1____Academic_Integrity.html), and from the instructor of this course. Departures from academic integrity include plagiarism, use of unauthorized materials, facilitation, forgery and falsification, and are antithetical to the development of an academic community at Queen's. Given the seriousness of these matters, actions which contravene the regulation on academic integrity carry sanctions that can range from a warning or the loss of grades on an assignment to the failure of a course to a requirement to withdraw from the university.


Copyright of Course Materials: This material is copyrighted and is for the sole use of students registered in BCHM 218. This material shall not be distributed or disseminated to anyone other than students registered in BCHM 218. Failure to abide by these conditions is a breach of copyright, and may also constitute a breach of academic integrity under the University Senate’s Academic Integrity Policy Statement.




Currently there are no instructors specified for this course.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, contact Course Coordinator: John Allingham

Last Updated: Jan, 16 2017