BS409/7109 - Current Topics in Structure as a Tool for Biologists

Learning Objective

The course objective is to acquire a firm grounding in structural biology that can serve as a tool for both understanding the basis of biological activity as well as conducting research in the biological sciences.


Biology students of today are commonly faced with challenges that require an understanding of physics and chemistry, because contemporary research in the biological sciences is highly interdisciplinary and is becoming only increasingly more so. To answer the most important biological questions of today, one must generally entertain multiple methodologies with the strongest coverage coming from addressing, for example, structural, molecular and cellular angles of a problem at the same time. As such, this course is aimed at providing an in depth understanding of three-dimensional macromolecular structure and the relationship between the conformation of proteins and nucleic acids with the biological activities of recognition, transport, signalling, and catalysis. We cover timely issues related to multi-molecular assemblies, catalytic machines, and membrane proteins, utilizing computer graphics for a profound visualization of biological function.

Learning Outcome

  1. Students can visualize and analyze macromolecular structures using molecular graphics software.
  2. Given the known function of a macromolecule (protein, DNA, RNA or protein-nucleic acid complex), the student can conduct an assessment of the molecule in 3-D to understand the structural and chemical basis of its activity.

Student Assessment

Students will be assessed by:

  1. Final 2.5-hour written examination (70%)
  2. Computer graphics exercises completed in a lab notebook (30%)


  1. Protein Structure and Function; Petsko & Ringe; 2004; New Science Press.
  2. Principles of Nucleic Acid Structure; Neidle; 2008; Academic Press.
  3. Biochemistry (4th Edition); Voet, Voet; 2011; John Wiley & Sons.
  4. Bioinorganic Chemistry (A Short Course; 2nd Edition); Rosette M. Roat-Malone; 2007; John Wiley & Sons (Wiley-Interscience).
  5. Introduction to Macromolecular Crystallography (2nd Edition); Alexander McPherson; 2009; John Wiley & Sons (Wiley-Liss).

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School of Biological Sciences, 60 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637551. Tel: (65) 6316-2801 Fax: (65) 6791-3856.

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