The Chemical Biology Toolkit CHEM5081

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Chemistry
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course will equip the students with an understanding of the chemical tools that can be applied to solving biological problems. It will provide insight into conjugation reactions, methods that exploit the intrinsic reactivity of biomolecules and the different types of bioorthogonal chemistry, which are used in living cells and whole organisms. It will explore the use of light to elucidate biological processes including fluorescence, photo-cross-linking, photo-uncaging and photo-switching. The students will also gain an understanding of the different approaches to the chemical sensing and reporting of biological processes. All this will be placed in the context of recent literature examples and practical procedures.


The course will comprise 8 lectures, 1 workshop, and 1 tutorial

Requirements of Entry

Available to students enrolled in the MSc in Chemical Biology

Excluded Courses



One 60 minute exam on the lectured content. (75%)

Additionally, students will write a short (ca 2000 word) essay assessing the use of a molecular probe in the current chemical biology literature and proposing alternatives (25%).

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

To introduce current chemical tools for elucidating biological processes so their utility in biomedical discoveries can be understood and new molecular probes can be designed.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Critically evaluate the structures and mechanisms of bioconjugation reactions, tagging, labelling, and pull down technologies.

2. Critically evaluate methods of sensing biological molecules and processes.

3. Critically evaluate structures, mechanisms, and uses of photoactivatable groups

4. Critically appraise the chemical structures used for intracellular targeting and delivery

5. Critically evaluate probes for biological targets and/or processes.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.