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Division of Infection and Immunity

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Undergraduate modules

In addition to the modules offered through our iBSc/BSc programmes, our undergraduate modules are available to students from other UCL departments.

Year 2

Infection (Level 5)

This module provides a basic foundation in the fascinating and important discipline of infection. Common pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are discussed in relation to their biology and the diseases they cause. The focus of the module is pathogenicity: the capacity to cause disease.

We will consider: how the immune system provides protection against infection; how pathogens manage to flourish in the face of the formidable array of host protective mechanisms; how vaccines and drugs can be used in the fight against infection. Considerable emphasis will be placed on critical discussion of these core concepts.

Module lead: Professor Richard Milne
Availability: Term 1
Assessment: Coursework essay (100%)

Student feedback

" I have never thought so deeply about science! This module has made me realise how much I enjoy synthesising material and writing in this style - regardless of how well I do in the essay. It has convinced me that this is a field of research I would like to explore in my career, so thank you so much!"
" The depth, breadth, enthusiasm of the lecturers, and the accessible way in which they presented the material. Dr Milne genuinely seems to care about how well we do in the module and how we engage with the material."
" I liked Dr Milne's lectures because he always made the subject really interesting and asked us the right questions to make us think more about it at home. Overall the module was really well organized and the peer review of the essay was a very useful step towards writing a better piece of work."
" It was great because it gave a really broad introduction to pathogenicity and infectious agents, in a challenging yet enjoyable way. I liked how Dr Milne got us to look at things in a different way to how a lot of the science modules are taught - he made us take a step back and look at the topic in a broader way. I also like how he made us think about issues and encouraged us for our own interpretations on the topics, as opposed to spoon feeding us. He also seemed to get us to develop a tonne of great skills in a short amount of time - he has been smart in his choice of assessment method since it got us to learn how to cites/ reference, structure an essay and communicate appropriately, read outside the lectures, form our own opinions by synthesising information and opposed to just learning facts etc."
" Focus on the big picture and understanding of host-pathogen interaction, which is really refreshing after a lot of memorisation of very specific biochemical pathways and mechanisms. Really, really brilliant and engaging lectures and lecturers overall. Helped shape the way I think about these things, in addition to just knowing more about them."

Immunology (Level 5)

This module provides a thorough grounding in basic cellular and molecular immunology. This knowledge is then built upon to discuss the more applied aspects of immunology including defence against infection and defects in immune responsiveness such as immunodeficiencies, allergy and autoimmune disease.

At the end of this module you will have a working knowledge of:

  • The cells and molecules which constitute the immune system
  • How the immune system recognises and then destroys pathogens
  • The concept of immunological memory and how vaccination works
  • How the immune system can itself sometimes cause disease - immunopathology.

Module lead: Dr Milica Vukmanovic-Stejic
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Final unseen examination [100%]

Student feedback

" This course gave every opportunity for involvement of students during the lectures. I liked this very much. I feel all the lectures were delivered extremely well."
" I found the subject interesting and engaging, it fitted in well with my infection module from first term. The course structure was good and the teaching was exceptional."
" The module was well organised, several learning resources are present and very interesting module. I am really glad to have picked this module!"

Year 3 & 4

Immunology in Health and Disease (Level 6)

This module provides an overview of the human immune system. Starting at the molecular level (e.g. antigen recognition, antibody diversity), outlining what is known about cellular interactions within the immune system (e.g. cytokines and immunoregulation) and concluding with a consideration of the role of the immune system in host defence, its role in disease, and its possible role in determining ecology and evolution of the species.

The module will cover the anatomy and constituents of the immune system and then consider the general principle of how an immune response is generated, beginning with the initial innate immune response to the development of acquired immunity. These concepts will be placed in context: how the immune system fights pathogens, how inappropriate responses can cause disease and how the immune system can be manipulated therapeutically. The module will develop from a basic to a more in depth understanding, with emphasis throughout placed on current developments in this fast moving field. 

Module lead: Dr Milica Vukmanovic-Stejic
Availability: Term 1
Assessment: Online quiz (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)

Student feedback

" A very good overview on all aspects of immunology."
" Content is good and lectures are well organised. Lecturers are generally very interesting and engaging." 
" It was a good module and most of the lectures were interesting. There was a good quality of teaching. The module was taught from basic principles and level of complexity built up slowly. Thank you."
" The broad scope of the module and good delivery in interesting lectures. An interesting Internal Assessment, which focused on our skills of reading scientific papers and analysing them."
" The method of assessment is great - very clear as to what is expected. Teaching was superb, on the whole."

Infectious Agents (Level 6)

This module provides state-of-the-art coverage of a selection of current issues in the field of infection. No attempt is made to cover a comprehensive curriculum but, instead, students will learn the language and concepts of the field through specific research-led examples and active discussions. Themed teaching sessions given by experts comprise an introduction to the topic followed by discussion and critique of a recent paper. Papers will be provided in advance and students will be expected to come to sessions prepared to discuss the set paper critically. In some sessions students will be required to lead discussions.

The focus throughout the module is on reading and discussing primary literature: full participation in class discussions is essential.

The learning objective for this module is the acquisition of a detailed knowledge of the featured topics and a clear sense of the key current issues in the field. Students will also develop their critical analysis skills from reading and discussing the papers for each session.

Module lead: Professor Richard Milne
Availability: Term 1
Assessment: Journal presentation (50%) | Reflective commentary (50%)

Student feedback

I enjoyed that everyone had to be involved in the paper analysis and that there was absolutely no pressure when asking a question. The lectures had a nice atmosphere. I liked that we could choose our paper to present and write about. It made me read around the topic a lot. Probably the best aspect of the module was the enthusiasm of every single lecturer. Thank you for making it enjoyable!"
It was really great to be able to learn, but without the feeling of learning for the sake of an exam. I felt I could enjoy lectures, be wrong, and not immediately be worried because there was an exam on it in the following weekend. I liked the assessment style it wasn't overwhelming. Some modules go overboard with assessments but I thought this was a manageable load and it was great to have that independence of picking what interests you."
Really interactive, brilliant speakers, great papers, really inspiring, teaches very useful skills!"
The carefully selected speakers, all were very interesting and varied. Most of all the type of assessment: I think it is different from the norm, but actually much more useful than the standard coursework/exam assessment." 

Cellular Pathology (Level 6)

This module provides an overview of the research frontiers of cell biology and cell pathology research. The module is made up of a series of seminars by experts in selected topics of cell biology. Each lecture aims to provide:

  • A brief overview of the topic (but students are expected to be familiar with the basics of each topic as covered in a standard cell biology text book before the course)
  • Details on one or more areas of active research interest, including appropriate description of the experimental technology required
  • Discussion of how changes in the molecular processes in question are linked to disease. 

The objectives are to ensure all students have a sufficient basic knowledge of the major processes of the cell, to get a flavour of what are the outstanding questions driving research in the field at present, and how these could be tackled, and to begin to consider the intricate connection between cellular processes and disease. The topics covered have been chosen partly on their importance and partly to reflect the specific research strengths within UCL.

Module lead: Dr Matthew Reeves
Availability: Term 1
Assessment: Coursework essay (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)

Student feedback

I enjoyed the variety of the topics and the fact that they put the findings in the context of diseases - a very important topic. I think that's why I found this module particularly interesting and did a lot of extra reading. I think the choice of the topics was excellent and I was impressed with the knowledge and work of every single lecturer and the cutting edge research they presented to us. I also liked the balance between molecular details taught and how things can go wrong to bring about a disease. Coursework essay is always a plus, especially that it gives us the freedom to write about what we want and takes the strain of the exam. Overall, it's an excellent module with a great structure, choice of speakers, things taught and relevance in research and medicine. I also think the course organiser was very engaged and he did genuinely care about delivering the best lectures and knowledge to us. Thank you."
Liked the fact that there was broad coverage of various parts of the topic, but a good amount of detail on each." 

Molecular Virology (Level 6 and 7)

The aim of the module is to give students an up to date insight into molecular virology, with particular focus on human pathogens and new research developments in the field. Lectures will cover a selection of important human viral pathogens including herpesviruses, HIV and hepatitis viruses, chosen to reflect clinical and research expertise within UCL. The molecular aspects of virus replication will also be put in a broader context of disease pathogenesis with lectures on viral immunology, antiviral therapy and vaccines. A basic knowledge of microbiology, molecular, and cell biology is assumed.

Module lead: Professor Richard Milne
Availability: Term 1
Assessment (Level 6): Coursework essay (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)
Assessment (Level 7): Coursework essay (30%) | Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

I really appreciated the fact that the module wasn't a recreation of a textbook as that would be super boring. The choice of topics was excellent and I have an impression I was exposed to more things than if we had learnt the textbook chapter by chapter. The talks were very diverse ranging from molecular virology and current lab research to public health and seeing the implication of that research in real life. The speakers were phenomenal, I felt really honoured to be taught by the world."
Loved knowing about multiple kinds of virus and how they relate to diseases."
I enjoyed the content and the fact we were exposed to many different lecturers with whom we can make connections." 

Immunodeficiency and Therapeutics (Level 6 and 7)

The immune system comprises components that are involved in recognition of invading pathogens and other noxious agents, microbial killing and tissue homeostasis/repair. Therefore, deficiencies of the immune system can be associated with increased susceptibility to infectious disease or a failure to control inflammation. The study of immunodeficiencies has in fact contributed extensively to our current understanding of normal structure and function in the immune system, and in turn has led innovative approaches to manipulate immune responses for therapeutic purposes.

This module seeks to explore the broad repertoire of both genetic (primary immunodeficiency) and environmental (secondary immunodeficiency) causes of impaired immunity, together with the consequences for the patient of such deficiencies and the insights provided into our understanding of the normal immune system. The treatment options that are available for these will be discussed, as well as approaches to immunomodulation including research which aims to transform gene and cell therapies into clinical applications.

Module lead: Professor Mahdad Noursadeghi
Availability: Term 2
Assessment (Level 6): Coursework essay (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)
Assessment (Level 7): Coursework essay (30%) | Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

I did enjoy this module a lot and am really glad for having chosen it. I found the topics covered particularly interesting content-wise, most lecturers were driven, during some lectures students got really involved. I think it was a particularly genuine module."
I have learned so much in this module. I think more people should choose this module. Well maybe not...the size of the group is a good size, where everyone can participate."

Autoimmunity and Transplantation (Level 6 and 7)

This module focuses on disadvantageous immune responses: when the immune system causes disease by mounting undesired responses to allergens, self or transplanted tissues. Students will explore the genetics and immune mechanisms underlying these responses and ask why substantial numbers of individuals react in a harmful way to normally 'harmless' environmental antigens such as pollens or food.

We will consider autoimmunity: the breakdown in the immunological tolerance mechanisms that normally prevent pathogenic responses against our own body constituents. Organ-specific and systemic autoimmune conditions will be covered and the contribution of the various components of the immune system to the destructive process discussed. We will also explore the artificial situation of transplanting an organ or tissue from one individual to another.

In addition to looking into the various immunological mechanisms involved in transplant rejection, we will investigate how transplant survival can be further improved and whether the current need for long term immunosuppression after transplantation can be overcome. 

Module lead: Professor Benedict Seddon
Availability: Term 2
Assessment (Level 6): Coursework essay (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)
Assessment (Level 7): Coursework essay (30%) | Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

Led on nicely from the Immunology in Health and Disease module I did in first term. As a medic, I found it a nice progression to learn more in depth about the clinical importance of immunology."
Objectives of each lectures are usually given and recording is available. Lecturers are enthusiastic and most are very friendly. It is interesting to learn about a wide range of topics within the scope of autoimmunity, allergy and transplant. (I like that they are grouped together in a module)."
Really interesting, good clinical links, and covered a breadth of topics."
The systematic approach to different features and diseases related to autoimmunity, allergy and transplantation - I feel I have developed a wide breadth of knowledge." 

Viruses and Disease (Level 6 and 7)

What are viruses? How do they replicate? Where do they come from? How do they enter the human population? How do they cause disease? Why do they cause epidemics? Why are some viruses much more dangerous than others? How do we control and prevent infections? This module will address these questions by exploring the remarkable and intimate interaction between virus and host at many levels: molecular, cellular, host organism and population. We will discover how viruses have adapted to optimise survival and replication in the fundamentally hostile environment that their host provides and we will discuss the many effector mechanisms that hosts deploy to prevent viral infection or control it once established.

The module is centred on the idea that an understanding of basic virology is essential for understanding viral disease. Drawing on a major strength in experimental and clinical virology at UCL, the module will provide an advanced understanding of the principles of virus replication and structure, insight into the virus-host interaction and a broad knowledge of individual virus infections, their treatment and prevention.

Module lead: Professor Richard Milne
Availability: Term 2
Assessment (Level 6): Journal presentation (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)
Assessment (Level 7): Journal presentation (30%) | Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

I liked that the module doesn't impose a particular opinion too strongly. It allows you to consider recent evidence, whilst providing a good history of how we got to where we are. I liked that the information I have received could not be obtained from a textbook. I also liked how enthusiastic the lecturers were about the content of their lectures."
Lecturers given by Richard are always incredibly engaging. He's a fantastic teacher. And as I said earlier I liked that this was backed up by front line research presented by PIs. Really good to have a range of PIs as well."
I liked the mix between basic virology concepts (virus entry into cell etc.) and 'case-studies' of specific viruses. I also liked the fact that we were taught by experts in the field."
I loved the fact each lecture was stand-alone. Also I loved the variety and that there wasn't too much detail in each lecture. It was a brilliant overview of viruses in general striking a beautiful balance between overview in the right places and detail in the right places."
All of the lecturers were so passionate and specialist, it really made a difference, this has been one of my favourite modules out of my 3 years here. I liked that lectures were in 2 hour blocks because even though its heavy you get the content out of the way so you can start revising earlier it also frees up time around when dissertations are due not sure if this was planned but it worked really well." 

Microbial Pathogenesis (Level 6 and 7)

This module will explore how bacteria of clinical and public health importance interact with their human host, cause disease, and how they can be treated and prevented. The module will introduce general concepts and use selected examples of bacteria that have special niches (intracellular/ extracellular) and that infect distinct tissues (e.g. brain; lung and the gut). We will also introduce new molecular and cellular techniques that are being used to probe interactions between bacteria and their hosts. We will explore the impact of antimicrobial resistance on bacteria and their hosts. Finally, we will show how new knowledge of cellular bacteriology, and bacterial and human genomes is being used in development of novel anti-bacterial treatments and prevention strategies.

This module will consist of a series of state-of-the-art lectures given by leaders in their fields followed by a journal club focused on a high impact paper relevant to the previous lecture led by post-doctoral scientists.

Module lead: Professor Rob Heyderman
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Oral Presentation (Elevator pitch) (20%) | Reflective commentary (10%)| Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

I enjoyed the fact that we were made aware of current research and had to read articles every week, although I found some of them difficult I thought it was a very good opportunity to develop critical and interpretation skills. I also liked being taught by experts in their field."
The assessment was good. I like that we were taught by front line researchers but it did also mean the lectures were disjointed. It was well organised. Some of the lecturers and journal clubs were very good and insightful."
There was a wide range of bacteria that was covered."

The Immune System, Cancer and its Treatment (Level 6 and 7)

This module explores the processes and molecular mechanisms that underpin neoplastic transformation, tumour invasion and metastasis, with reference to specific haematological and solid tumours.

The aim is for the student to build on an assumed core knowledge of cell and molecular biology to understand the natural history of neoplastic disease. There is considerable emphasis on the links between normal growth, development and responsiveness, and neoplastic growth. Site specific aspects of neoplasia (e.g. colon cancer, lung cancer and leukaemia) will be considered. In addition, all these topics will be linked to lectures that explore the mechanisms of current and novel treatment modalities including chemotherapy, biologicals, stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy and gene therapy.

Module lead: Dr Clare Bennett
Availability: Term 2
Assessment (Level 6): Coursework essay (20%) | Final unseen examination (80%)
Assessment (Level 7): Coursework essay (30%) | Final unseen examination (70%)

Student feedback

The fusion of cancer and its relation to immunology struck a very good balance - there were clear mechanisms for the immunology involved, but the clinical aspects and relevancy of what we're learning was really well expressed."
Coverage of different aspects of neoplasia and the combination of scientific and clinical approaches."
Incredibly interesting and varied. Most of the lectures were delivered exceptionally well and at the right level."
I really liked the breadth of topics covered, as well as the discussion of what is happening presently in terms of new therapeutics and strategies."

Global Eradication of Viruses (Level 6)

Two viruses that infect humans have already been eradicated from the globe; smallpox and poliovirus type 2. No cases of poliovirus type 3 have been seen recently while polio type 1 cases are restricted to just 3 countries. Measles has been identified as the next target for eradication.

In this new module, we will explore the biological, human demographic and political characteristics of particular viruses that might be considered for eradication in the future. In doing so, we will consider the cost effectiveness of eradication as a strategy and we will review the current progress towards controlling these virus infections in the community through immunisation.

The development and deployment of vaccines requires expertise and support from a variety of specialist disciplines including: virology, immunology, biotechnology, clinical trial design, government regulatory agencies, government decision-making bodies, public health organisations and major charities. External speakers with experience of several of these areas will teach on the module and share their perspectives and insights.

There are no pre-requisites for this module and students are not required to have to have studied any particular subjects in the past.

Module lead: Professor Paul Griffiths
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Oral Presentation 'Elevator pitch' (40%) | Written Assessment 'Grant Application' (60%)

Student feedback

I liked learning about the implementation side of virology, which I hadn’t had before.
It's totally different from other modules I've done and I loved having guest lecturers!
I learnt about viruses I didn’t have previous experience of, like polio, RSV and rinderpest. I developed public speaking skills and enjoyed writing the grant proposal as the major coursework. It was more challenging than an essay but definitely appropriate given the subject matter.

Evolution and Infectious Diseases (Level 6)

Ever since there were organisms to infect, there were pathogens. Pathogens and the diseases they cause have been our constant companions throughout evolutionary history. This module will cover the basics of evolution, and how these concepts help us to understand the shifting relationship between pathogen and host. We will discuss how human culture and civilisation have affected the evolution of pathogens, and how pathogens have affected human evolution, determining the most basic aspects of who we are, what it is to be an organism, to be an individual, to be human. We will consider the evolutionary record that can be recovered by analysing genomic sequences, and how deciphering these patterns can provide crucial information to the scientist, the epidemiologist, and the clinician. These topics will be anchored by considering important pathogens - MRSA, Malaria, HIV - how they have evolved, and how we have evolved in response. We will then look to the future, at the nature of the increasing threats that we will be facing.

Module lead: Professor Richard Goldstein
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Coursework (3000 words) (90%) | Weekly quizzes (10%)

Student feedback

I enjoyed the open nature of the discussion of the lectures, especially when class topics were reinforced during the practical sessions in the afternoon. This gave a relevance to the information we were being taught about during the classes.
I liked that it was very interdisciplinary, bringing together evolutionary biology, infectious diseases, anthropology, and immunology. I also appreciated that the class was quite applied with a lot of emphasis on how phylogenetic methods can be used in the clinic or in public health.
I really enjoyed the module! Richard Goldstein is an engaging and enthusiastic lecturer. I have never taken a module about evolution before, concepts were explained very clearly. Content was really interesting, outside speakers were also fantastic. Practicals encouraged discussion of lecture content.

Mathematical Modelling in Biomedicine (Level 6)

Mathematical models provide a way to capture the essential features of complex systems, which often help scientists to gain insight and understanding, and crucially allow the behaviour of the system to be accurately predicted. Such models are pervasive in physics and chemistry, but have been slower to develop in biology and medicine due to the perceived complexity and heterogeneity of biological systems. However, mathematical models are increasingly being applied to make sense of the huge volumes of biological data produced by modern technologies.

This module aims to expose the student to the range of applications of mathematical models in biomedicine, through a series of seminars by experts. Examples will cover mathematical models operating at widely different time and distance scales, ranging from models of molecular structure, enzyme and receptor kinetics, cellular and organ imaging, neuronal processing and brain function, genomics, epidemiology and evolution.

Students will learn to understand the main approaches to representing biological and medical processes by mathematical models (e.g. deterministic versus stochastic, mechanistic versus statistical), by a guided in depth study of primary literature in this field. Through this course, students will become familiar with how to conceptualize, develop and understand the value and limitations of mathematical models of biological processes, and the applications of such models in diverse areas of medicine.

An A in A level mathematics (or equivalent) is an essential prerequisite for this module. Some prior experience of computer programming is an advantage but not essential (catch up tuition will be provided).

Module lead: Professor Benny Chain
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Oral presentation (40%) | Mini written project (60%)

Student feedback

This module really trains us to start understanding biological concepts from another perspective, and the coursework has also provided us with an opportunity to apply what we have learnt to solve some real biological problems, something that we could not experience anywhere else.
It's very different from other Biosciences modules as the lectures cover a broad range of applications of mathematical modelling.
Really interesting and very applicable to pretty much every subject. Really liked the coursework - I thought it was a really good way to apply the knowledge learnt throughout the module.

HIV Frontiers from Research to Clinics (Level 6 and 7)

The aim is for the student to gain current, in-depth knowledge of HIV biology, pathogenesis and clinical science through researcher-led teaching.

At the completion of the module the student will:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of HIV biology by exploring virus-host cell interactions
  2. Appreciate how HIV research has pioneered new fields of scientific research
  3. Gain knowledge of infection history and pathogenesis of HIV in both cell and systemic levels
  4. Acquire up-to-date knowledge on the approaches and progress made in the development of HIV prevention, therapy and cure
  5. Acquire an understanding of the main principles of the clinical management of HIV infection

Module lead: Dr Clare Jolly and Professor Ravi Gupta
Availability: Term 2
Assessment: Oral examination (40%) | Paper proposal (60%)


Laboratory-based Research Project

This module is available to Infection and Immunity students only. The research project module provides students with first-hand experience of producing original laboratory research under the direct supervision of principal investigators at UCL. We assess the aspirations of each student individually to identify their preferences for potential types of project that are relevant to the broad scope of the iBSc. Together with their supervisor, students will formulate a specific project, design and undertake experiments, and interpret/communicate their work in oral presentations and a written report.

This module provides invaluable teaching in scientific methodology, laboratory techniques, critical appraisal of original experimental data, and unique insight into the potential of new discoveries. The skills acquired here provide a competitive platform for students who may wish to pursue a future research or clinical academic career.

Module lead: Professor Richard Milne
Availability: Terms 1 and 2
Assessment: Oral examination (10%) | Written report (90%)