Chemical Basis of Biological Processes


Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the students should:
● Be able to recognise the major groups of biological molecules and have an appreciation their chemistry
● Have the background chemistry to study further modules on the metabolism and energetics of biological systems


This module aims to show how the biological properties of molecules are based upon their chemical properties and knowledge of the latter helps to understand the molecular basis of biological science. This module builds upon the students' basic knowledge of chemistry to impart a deeper insight into how many of the biological properties of molecules arise from their basic chemical ones. Its objectives are to give students the basic knowledge and tools for obtaining a better understanding of their future studies in the biological sciences.


A description of simple bonding in organic molecules will be used to explain the stereochemical importance of the spacial configuration in natural molecules. This will be used to describe the different types of structural and geometric isomerism in organic carbon compounds and understand the different types of nomenclature. The description of conformations of simple compounds leads on to those of more complex molecules such as carbohydrates and peptides.

The physical properties of biological molecules will be explained using firstly examples from simple chemical processes and then the concepts extended to large biological molecules.

Areas to be discussed include energy changes during reactions and how such energetics help to determine the principles of chemical equilibria and limitations of yield etc. are linked with such considerations.

The basic understanding of the rates of chemical and biological reactions will lead on to a simple consideration of the importance of enzymes in biological processes. The concepts of pH, acids and bases, buffers will be explained and their importance in the properties of biological molecules such as amino acids and natural bases emphasised.

A simple discussion of radioactivity, isotopes, radioactive emissions and safety and health aspects of handling isotopes will be given, if there is time.

Audio-visual and computer based packages will be used to extend the knowledge and depth of the lecture course and provide the basis for the continual assessment of the course.