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Unit of study_

BIOL2029: Cell Biology

Semester 1, 2024 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Cell biology is one of the most dynamic areas in science today. In both plants and animals, cell to cell communication and coordination of the cell cycle, as well as cellular division and migration, are vital for normal development of various tissues from stem cells. In this unit you will investigate, the diversity of cell types, how these different cells interact with each other, how the cell cycle is controlled, as well as studying the roles of cellular movement, differentiation and interaction in reproduction and development. In this unit, you will acquire a deep understanding of the established knowledge base and develop research skills to extend this knowledge. Discussions will incorporate recent advances in cell research including the regenerative potential of stem cells to replace damaged and diseased tissue and how the placenta can control the physiology of the mother and foetus. The laboratory program, provides you with hands on training in key techniques such as cell culture, cell signal transduction, mitochondrial physiology, drug discovery in marine organisms, digital microscopy and tissue specific gene expression. These skills will prepare you for a research pathway and/or a career that includes cell biology.

Unit details and rules

Unit code BIOL2029
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
BIOL2016 or BIOL2916 or BIOL2929
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Murray Thomson,
Lecturer(s) Osu Lilje,
Murray Thomson,
Min Chen,
Marcus Heisler,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
Final exam
Written answers.
60% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
Tutorial quiz Quiz 1
Short answer and multiple choice questions
5% Week 04 50 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO2
Assignment Report
Research manuscript
20% Week 05
Due date: 24 Mar 2024 at 23:59
Approximately 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4
Tutorial quiz Quiz 2
Short answer and multiple choice questions
5% Week 08 50 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO3 LO2
Small continuous assessment Laboratory work
Laboratory class performance and lab book portfolio
10% Week 13
Due date: 24 May 2024 at 16:00
Completion of lab manual
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO10 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Quizzes: The 2 quizzes will be run during practicals and are held in the laboratory. The questions will cover the lecture material from the previous weeks, and will also relate to the previous practical classes, focussing on the main principles, overall results, and key conclusions. There is a practice quiz for you to see the format on the Blackboard site. Please make sure you are on time, to avoid losing valuable time and marks.
  • Report: The report is prepared on an individual basis and is based on the work that you did in a nominated lab session. The report needs to be thoroughly researched, well organised and properly referenced, typed, and contain all the sections listed in the report guideline that will be provided to you.
  • Laboratory work: During each laboratory session, you need to record all the original results of your experiments and write answers to any questions.
  • Exam: The theory exam will consist of questions that require written answers. Each of the lecturers will set questions relevant to their lecture material. Examples of exam papers from previous years are available in the library and on the Learning Management System web site. 

    This assessment is compulsory and failure to attend, attempt, or submit will result in the award of an AF grade.

    If a second replacement exam is required, this exam may be delivered via an alternative assessment method, such as a viva voce (oral exam). The alternative assessment will meet the same learning outcomes as the original exam. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

Support for students

The Support for Students Policy 2023 reflects the University’s commitment to supporting students in their academic journey and making the University safe for students. It is important that you read and understand this policy so that you are familiar with the range of support services available to you and understand how to engage with them.

The University uses email as its primary source of communication with students who need support under the Support for Students Policy 2023. Make sure you check your University email regularly and respond to any communications received from the University.

Learning resources and detailed information about weekly assessment and learning activities can be accessed via Canvas. It is essential that you visit your unit of study Canvas site to ensure you are up to date with all of your tasks.

If you are having difficulties completing your studies, or are feeling unsure about your progress, we are here to help. You can access the support services offered by the University at any time:

Support and Services (including health and wellbeing services, financial support and learning support)
Course planning and administration
Meet with an Academic Adviser

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Visualising cells Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO3
Principles of cell signalling Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Cell biology techniques Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 02 Cellular control by mitochondria Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO6 LO10
Signalling through G-protein coupled receptors Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO6 LO10
Arabidopsis model plant A Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO10
Week 03 Phospholipase and calcium cell signalling Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO6
Cell signalling through enzyme coupled receptors Lecture (1 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Signal transduction and motility in Euglena (Arabidopsis plant B) Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Cellular endocrinology Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO6
Cell culture Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Arabidopsis model plant C Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO4
Week 05 Cell signalling routes in gene regulation Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO10
Cell signalling in plants Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO10
Explant cell culture Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 06 Function and origin of the cytoskeleton Lecture (1 hr) LO7
Actin and actin binding proteins Lecture (1 hr) LO7
The mitochondrion Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 07 Cell contraction via actin and myosin Lecture (1 hr) LO7
Microtubules and cellular traffic Lecture (1 hr) LO7
Analysis of tissue specific gene expression I Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO4 LO10
Week 08 Intermediate filaments and cell migration Lecture (1 hr) LO7 LO10
The mitotic and cytokinetic apparatus Lecture (1 hr) LO7 LO8 LO10
Analysis of tissue specific gene expression II Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 09 Plant cells and development Lecture (1 hr) LO10
Control of the cell cycle Lecture (1 hr) LO8
Week 10 Cell junctions Lecture (1 hr) LO7 LO10
Overview of development Lecture (1 hr) LO9 LO10
Compound and digital microscopy/ Set up for plant cells Science laboratory (3 hr) LO4 LO10
Week 11 Mechanisms of pattern formation Lecture (1 hr) LO10
Tissues and the extracellular matrix Lecture (1 hr) LO9 LO10
Plant cells & development 1 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 12 Cell death Lecture (1 hr) LO7 LO10
Cancer in cells and tissues 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO8
Plant cells & development 2 Science laboratory (3 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 13 Cancer in cells and tissues 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO8
Stem cells and tissue renewal Lecture (1 hr) LO8 LO10
Bioactive molecules from sea anemones Science laboratory (3 hr) LO1 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

Students are required to attend all practical classes.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Alberts B., Johnson A., Lewis J., Raff M., Roberts K., Walter P. (2022) Molecular Biology of the Cell (Seventh edition).  Garland Publishing Inc., New York & London, available from ISBN-9780393884852

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. apply skills developed in the operation of stereo and compound microscopes and their use in cell and tissue research
  • LO2. apply competencies in calculating the concentration of cells and chemicals in a changed volume of solute
  • LO3. develop skills in the culture of cells in vitro and the use of cell cultures for research
  • LO4. generate your own unique cell biology data, apply key cell biology research techniques to solve novel questions and create a scientific manuscript
  • LO5. understand the major pathways in intercellular and intracellular communication and signalling
  • LO6. evaluate research on the molecular machinery that allows endocrine glands such as the hypothalamus and pituitary to control cellular processes in the body of animals
  • LO7. understand the cytoskeleton and how it allows cells to function including movement and the formation of intracellular transport pathways and networks
  • LO8. describe the mechanism and control of the cell cycle at the molecular level and how the loss of these controls can lead to cancer and cancer progression
  • LO9. understand the molecular mechanisms that control apoptosis and how apoptosis is used in development
  • LO10. evaluate current research on development processes in plants and animals.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

It was great to see the ratings on aspects of the unit such as the intellectual reward factor and the feeling of being actively engaged in the subject matter, as well as the descriptions of enjoying the lectures and the practical classes, that kind of enjoyment in learning is really going to drive your capabilities in science. Thanks for the feedback on some of the teaching support in the practical classes, what I will do next year is give the demonstrators a list each week of skills, to make sure they can instruct and guide the students on these. Furthermore, I will emphasise that students can ask as many questions as they like about the assignment or any aspect of the unit ahead of time, and I was very happy to see so many students do a terrific job of the assignment this year. Feeling challenged about writing a report on more than one experiment is normal, and essential training as scientific journal papers are usually written on a series of experiments. Lastly, I liked to see the comment about overcoming those feelings of being overwhelmed at first, this is an important part of the learning journey.

Work, health and safety

Completion of the Canvas module “Zoonosis Awareness” is compulsory.

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


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