Postgraduate taught 

Bioinformatics MSc/PgDip/PgCert

Foundations of Bioinformatics BIOL5170

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Life Sciences
  • Credits: 15
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course provides the theoretical underpinnings required to engage with modern bioinformatic techniques and approaches and an introduction to practices commonly employed in this field.


This course will take place in the first half of Semester 1 - Lecture sessions of 1-3 hours duration several times per week; several group work/seminars of 1-2 hours duration; computer practical sessions of 1-3 hours approx. twice per week.

Excluded Courses





This course will be assessed by means of a 1.5-hour examination (50%) and coursework assessment (50%).

The coursework will involve a single assessment component comprising two items: an essay plan (worth 20% of the course) and a set of computer practical reports (worth 30% of the course). These two items will be aggregated to calculate the grade for the coursework component.

Main Assessment In: December

Course Aims

This course aims to equip students with extensive, critical and integrative understanding of the core concepts of molecular biology and DNA sequence analysis as applicable to the field of bioinformatics. It will also provide students with a detailed overview of data representations and approaches for manipulating data, using trees to represent relationships between entities, and statistical distributions and inference. In addition it will give students exposure to, and the opportunity to carry out, core computing practices of use in the bioinformatics field, including Unix/Linux and command line interfaces, the use of scripts to enact simple instructions, and the use of R as a programming environment for doing statistical analysis.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ critically compare molecular characteristics of the genome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome, and integrate evidence from the literature to explain the links between these domains;

■ assess and critically compare the ways in which trees can be used to show relationships between entities;

■ plan a statistical approach to analysing a dataset and critically discuss how biological inferences can be made from such tests;

■ critically discuss the characteristics of computer filesystems, the means of interaction with computer operating systems and the use of computer programming to instruct computers to manipulate, transfer and display files, data and analyses;

■ creatively apply and critically compare a variety of approaches to the organisation, presentation and comparison of molecular data;

■ use computer programming environments to execute a planned statistical analysis;

■ interact with a computer operating system and use computer programs to manipulate, transfer and display files, data and analyses.

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.