Principles of Protein Structure (Postgraduate Certificate)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Distance learning


Fully Approved


One year part-time


Six to 12 hours a week by distance learning, October to July

The twenty-first century has been described as 'the century of biology', with advances in molecular biology already making an important contribution to enormous gains in health and quality of life over much of the world. Proteins are fundamental to all biology. Structural biology is the science of how the shapes of molecules such as proteins affect their function, and our understanding of it has contributed to the design of drugs against devastating diseases including cancer and HIV/AIDS. This postgraduate certificate in the principles of protein structure explores the structures of proteins at different levels, before applying this knowledge to an understanding of their function in health and disease.

The programme introduces the structure of proteins, and how that structure is related to both a protein’s sequence and its function. It provides a background to the discipline of structural molecular biology. You will learn how:

  • protein structures are built up
  • the structure of proteins contributes to functions that are common to all living things, as well as differences between them
  • knowledge of protein structure has led to the development of drugs against diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS
  • to use software to manipulate and explore 3D models of protein structure, and to view models of molecules in motion.

On successful completion of this course, you will possess a detailed knowledge of protein structure and its importance in molecular biology. You will develop your understanding of basic bioinformatics and learn to use some fairly simple bioinformatics tools. You will recognise and understand how complex protein structures are made up from simpler components.

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    • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), in a joint submission with UCL, Biological Sciences at Birkbeck were ranked 11th in the UK, with a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
    • An innovative course taught entirely using the internet. You study part-time in your own time, wherever you are in the world. Most of our students have full-time jobs and other personal commitments.
    • May be taken as a stand-alone certificate course or as part of our acclaimed internet-based MSc Structural Molecular Biology.
    • Read our programme blog about recent research in structural molecular biology.
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    Course structure

    The programme consists of one 60-credit module.

    Read more about modules
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