NBIK15010U Epigenetics and Cell Differentiation

Volume 2016/2017

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Molecular Biomedicine


The course does not use a textbook, but rather a selection of articles from the primary literature. Three articles are prepared each week and discussed in groups of ~16 students supervised by one teacher in three-hour literature sessions. An introduction to each session is provided during the week preceding the discussion in the form of a lecture. The students prepare for the discussion at home ahead of time by reading the articles and attempting to answer a list of questions provided with each article. Research seminars related to the literature topics are given by teachers in the course and guest speakers. Laboratory exercises help understand techniques and concepts encountered in the primary literature. These exercises are designed as experiments rather than demonstrations.

Learning Outcome


  • Variations in gene expression profiles during cellular differentiation
  • Histone modifications, chromatin structure, and epigenetic regulation of gene expression
  • RNAi: discovery, mechanisms, biological functions
  • Roles of micro-RNAs in gene regulation and embryonic development
  • Mechanisms of asymmetric cell division


The primary goals of this course are

  • to provide the students with the tools necessary to a critical understanding and evaluation of the primary scientific literature related to the topic of the course;
  • to consolidate their understanding of the scientific method; and
  • to stress the importance of model systems in modern Biology.

These goals are achieved by an integrated approach combining laboratory exercises and discussions of the primary literature.


By the end of the course, the students should be able to:

  • discuss, put into perspective, and criticize articles covered in the course.
  • use their acquired skills and knowledge to discuss, put into perspective, and criticize articles not covered in the course, bearing on topics related to those covered in the course.
  • present the methods used in the articles covered in the course.
  • report and put into perspective results obtained in the laboratory exercises.
  • conceive experiments related to the laboratory exercises or related to experiments presented in articles covered in the course.

See Absalon.

Open to biology, biochemistry, biomedicine and nanotechnology master students and to students at the third-year bachelor level who have passed their first and second year courses.
Approximately 70 contact hours of integrated laboratory exercises, discussions, and lectures.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Lectures
  • 12
  • Practical exercises
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 112
  • Project work
  • 30
  • Theory exercises
  • 18
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Written assignment
The take-home exam weigths 1/3 of the final grade, and the 4-hour written open-book exam weigths 2/3 of the final grade.

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide computers. Private computers, tablets or mobile phones CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

30 minutes oral examination with 30 minutes preparation time, no aids allowed.

Criteria for exam assesment

The grade 12 reflects an excellent understanding of the material covered in the course; an excellent ability to critically evaluate articles from the primary literature bearing on the topic of the course that were not covered in the course; and the ability to conceive experimental strategies to address scientific questions related to the topic of the course.