Human Biochemistry (BCHM2072)


This unit of study aims to describe how cells work at the molecular level, with a special emphasis on human biochemistry. The chemical reactions that occur inside cells are described in the first series of lectures, Cellular Metabolism. Aspects of the molecular architecture of cells that enable them to transduce messages and communicate with each other are described in the second half of the unit of study, Signal Transduction. At every stage there is emphasis on the 'whole body' consequences of reactions, pathways and processes. Cellular Metabolism describes how cells extract energy from fuel molecules like fatty acids and carbohydrates, how the body controls the rate of fuel utilisation and how the mix of fuels is regulated (especially under different physiological circumstances such as starvation and exercise). The metabolic inter-relationships of the muscle, brain, adipose tissue and liver and the role of hormones in coordinating tissue metabolic relationships is discussed. The unit also discusses how the body lays down and stores vital fuel reserves such as fat and glycogen, how hormones modulate fuel partitioning between tissues and the strategies involved in digestion and absorption and transport of nutrients. Signal Transduction covers how communication across membranes occurs (i.e. via surface receptors and signaling cascades). This allows detailed molecular discussion of the mechanism of hormone action and intracellular process targeting. The practical component complements the lectures by exposing students to experiments that investigate the measurement of glucose utilisation using radioactive tracers and the design of biochemical assay systems. During the unit of study, generic skills are nurtured by frequent use of analytical and problem solving activities. Opportunities are provided to redesign and repeat experiments so as to provide a genuine research experience. Student exposure to generic skills will be extended by the introduction of exercises designed to teach oral communication, instruction writing and planning skills.

Further unit of study information


Two lectures per week, 8-10 optional tutorials, increasing in frequency towards the exams, and 2-3 hours per week of practical


One 3-hour exam (65%), practical work (25%), in semester assignments (10%).

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules

Prerequisites and assumed knowledge

(MBLG1001 or MBLG1901) and 12 credit points of Junior Chemistry


BCHM2972 or BCHM2112 or BCHM2002 or BCHM2102 or BCHM2902

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.