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BGM3056 : Evolution and Genomics

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor T. Martin Embley
  • Lecturer: Professor Robert Hirt
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


i.       To provide a general understanding of how ideas from evolutionary biology inform, and are informed by, genomic science.
ii.       To provide some deeper insights into the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic genome and the roles of gene and genome duplication, vertical inheritance, lateral gene transfer and endosymbiosis in its formation.
iii.       To highlight how studies of parasite genomes have provided general insights into how genomes evolve as well as clues to pathogenic mechanisms and potential therapies.
iv.       To provide knowledge and understanding of the tools used to analyse genomes.

Original Summary:
Theodosius Dobzhanskyis famous for his essay "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". The aim of the course is to show that this is still true, and specifically to show how it has enriched and informed the science of genomics. The study of genomes, or genomics, has influenced all areas of biology. For example, the human genome project has provided unparalleled insight into our own condition, while studies of the genomes of disease-causing organisms hold promise of new therapies. The new technologies that are underpinned by genomics can be integrated to offer global or near-global overviews of gene content, and gene and protein expression. The major goal of this module is to demonstrate how evolutionary genomics has revolutionised biology and to introduce the key discoveries, concepts and applications.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lecture and directed study material:

•       Evolutionary biology describes the history of life and explains why organisms and genomes are the way they are.
•       Definitions and concepts, homology, descent with modification and natural selection, evidence for evolution, the new synthesis, neutral theory.
•       The first whole genome sequences, the technology and discoveries, large-scale patterns and processes of genome evolution. How do prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes differ? The yeast genome as a tool for understanding genome evolution and protein function.
•       Making sense of the data - how are genomes analysed, bioinformatics: computer tools for recognising genes and structure – function prediction. Proteomics and other ‘omic technologies. Microarrays.
•       Phylogenetics, as a tool for understanding the evolution of genes, genomes and species. The origins of eukaryotic genomes, lateral gene transfer and vertical inheritance, endosymbiosis and eukaryotic evolution, is there a tree of life?      
•       Comparative analyses of parasite genomes, obligate intracellular, and free living parasites (Microsporidia and Trichomonas case studies and viruses).
• The human microbiota in health and disease, new insights from metagenomics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity15:005:00Class test presentation.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study183:0083:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart knowledge of key issues in genomic science. Genomics is a rapidly evolving field - directed reading from discovery and review journals will be used to keep abreast of key developments and to encourage critical faculties. Private study is necessary for students to absorb information presented in lectures and for self-assessment, to deepen their knowledge and understanding through directed reading, to become familiar with the web and its resources for genome analysis.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination602A80One essay question to be answered from a choice of 2.
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prof skill assessmnt1M20Presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination provides evidence of knowledge and understanding of the topics. The assessed seminar will provide evidence of critical analysis of published work and clarity of communication of scientific ideas.

Reading Lists