Cellular and Molecular Biology - Course Advice - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Studying Cellular and Molecular Biology at Canterbury

moleculeCell biology is the science of the living cell. Cell theory, developed in the 1800s, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells, that cells are the smallest living units of all living organisms, and that cells arise only by division of a previously existing cell.

Recent decades have seen stunning advances in the study of cell biology as a range of different imaging, biochemical and molecular techniques have been used to investigate how cells work, and how cells interact with other cells.

Molecular biology is the science of how things work at the molecular level, from gene expression to genetics. This fundamental science underpins our understanding of how cells and organisms work.

Career paths

Cell and molecular biologists have many career options. They are employed by in universities, biotechnology companies and crown research institutes (e.g. Agresearch, Plant & Food Research). Many cell biologists also work in the medical sciences, either as researchers or in the pharmaceutical industry and contribute to civil society and organisations and government agencies.


  • BSc (Hons) - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers and a research project.
  • PGDipSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers.
  • MSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers (part I), followed by a one year research project (part II), written up as a thesis.
  • PhD - Students complete a 3 year research project written up as a thesis. Entry is after successful completion of either BSc(Hons) or an MSc.

Planning Your Degree

Below is a guide to help you select courses that will give you a well rounded degree in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.

Year 1


  • BIOL 111 Cellular Biology & Biochemistry
  • BIOL 112 Ecology, Evolution & Conservation
  • BIOL 113 Diversity of Life
  • BCHM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry [1] (aka CHEM 112)
  • STAT 101 Statistics 1


  • CHEM 111 Chemical Principles and Processes
  • MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics [2]
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori and Indigenous Knowledge

Year 2


  • BIOL 209 Introduction to Biological Data Analysis
  • BIOL 213 Microbiology and Genetics
  • BIOL 231 Foundations in Molecular Biology
  • BIOL 253 Cell Biology 1
  • BCHM 222 Biochemistry B - Metabolism; the reactions of molecules in cells


Year 3



  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists [3]
  • BIOL 334 Evolutionary Genetics
  • BIOL 335 Bioinformatics and Genomics
  • BIOL 352 Plant Development and Biotechnology
  • BIOL 354 Animal Ecophysiology
  • BIOL 355 Neurons, Hormones and Behaviour
  • BCHM 381 Biochemical Techniques

[1] If you have fewer than 14 credits of NCEA level 3 chemistry take CHEM 114 before starting BCHM/CHEM 112.
[2] MATH101 is strongly recommended unless you have good NCEA level 3 maths credits.
[3] BIOL309 is essential for postgraduate biology.