Biomembranes and Bioenergetics

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
29 November 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C700 Biochemistry,
BSC C701 Biochemistry (Including Placement Year),
BSC C703 Biochemistry (Including Year Abroad),
BSC CR00 Biochemistry (Including Foundation Year),
MSCIC098 Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Including Year Abroad),
MSCIC099 Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Including Placement Year),
MSCICZ99 Biochemistry and Biotechnology

Module description

Biomembranes are of fundamental importance in determining the organisation and functioning of living cells. Biophysical and biochemical methods to study membranes will be discussed alongside the specific roles of membranes in the signal transduction, ion and solute transport and energy storage in cells.

Energy generation and transformation by membranes is an essential feature of all cells: membrane electron transport processes will be discussed (with particular attention being given to respiratory and photosynthetic processes), together with the chemiosmotic theory for ATP synthesis by membranes. A bottom up approach building from basic thermodynamics to observed macroscopic effects and biological function is taken. Particular emphasis is placed on the quantitative description of chemical free energy changes and electron transfer reactions allowing students to analyse and interpret biophysical data in the context of actual experiments.

Module aims

The aims of this course are to introduce students to basic composition and biophysical properties of biomembranes and how they are associated with cellular activities. The second focus of the course is on the principles underpinning energy transduction and storage by biomembranes and the role of electrochemical gradients in cellular function.

These aims will be explored in the context of lipid and membrane protein structure and how it translates into the activity of biological membranes.

Module learning outcomes

In order to pass this module, students will need to be able to:

1. Describe the structure, organisation and biogenesis of biological membranes. Explain how physico-chemical properties of the lipids and proteins lead to the dynamic nature of biological membranes;
2. Have comprehensive knowledge of the main characteristics of membrane proteins and their roles in membrane structure, transport and signaling;
3. Demonstrate deep and rational understanding of how ions and solutes are transported across biological membranes, thus creating membrane gradients; demonstrate ability to solve practical problems related to membranes;
4. Explain the principles of photosynthetic energy conversion and chemiosmotic theory of energy transduction by biological membranes;
5. Demonstrate critical understanding of the thermodynamics underpinning these mechanisms;
6. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the range of methods and techniques used to study membranes, apply equations in analysis and interpretation of complex biophysical data.

Other information:

Employability and transferrable skills:

7. Advance knowledge of the theory and practice of key techniques used in lipid and membrane protein research.
8. Solid understanding of the theory and practical aspects of thermodynamics and kinetics.
9. Ability to demonstrate competence in data presentation, analysis and interpretation (DAI). Work effectively as part of a team to analyse and present experimental and theoretical data.
10. Ability to read and analyse scientific literature and use online information retrieval services –e.g. Pubmed.
11. Time management – self-directed study – prioritising.

Listen Again:
The School has a policy which ensures all lecturers opt-in to making lectures available via Listen Again. Therefore, in teaching rooms where the facility is available, lectures will be recorded via this service.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures: 18 hours Revision workshop: 2 hours


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Closed Book, 180 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Closed Book, 180 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
0% 100%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Vassiliy Bavro, email:
Dr Dima Svistunenko
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Dr Thomas Clarke
University of East Anglia
Senior lecturer/associate professor
Available via Moodle
Of 21 hours, 21 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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