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    An undergraduate course in Science.

Metals and life

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Metals play a vital role in the metabolism of plants and animals and, increasingly, in medicine. This course examines the chemistry of the transition metals and outlines the key role they play in living systems, for example in respiration and photosynthesis. It considers how organisms acquire metals, their transport and storage, illustrated by the particular example of iron in the human body. The significant impact of metals in medicine will also be investigated, looking at their role in diagnostic imaging and therapy, as well as the effects of too much metal (metal toxicity) and of metal deficiency.

Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

Register for the course


Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£325.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£760.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£325.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£760.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£325.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£877.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

An additional fee for the examination may apply.

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£325.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£660.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£877.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£877.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£325.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
25 Oct 2014 Apr 2015
£877.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 24/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

The course starts with an introduction to the metals essential to life and some of the biological ligands with which they are associated. It then examines the chemistry of the transition metals, some of the metals most key to life, and their aqueous ions and complexes. This introduction to coordination chemistry provides the necessary background to go on to consider how the metals are acquired from the environment, how they are transported and ultimately how they are stored, highlighted in particular with the example of iron in the human body. An introduction to the fascinating field of biomineralisation will be included, looking at the build up of bones and teeth. The course then considers two of the theories that link the many facets of transition-metal chemistry, crystal-field theory and molecular orbital theory, which provide the necessary foundation to understand the roles that metals and their complexes play in living systems. Particular key processes covered include oxygen transport and delivery, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, electron transport and the biological roles of zinc and cobalt (in vitamin B12). The course concludes by looking at the important roles that metals play in medicine, both in diagnostic imaging and therapy itself, with examples such as platinum anti-cancer drugs, gold and arthritis and vanadium in diabetes care. The areas of metal overdose, toxicity and deficiency will also be considered.

The course aims to develop your:

  • knowledge and understanding of the chemistry of metals and coordination chemistry
  • knowledge and understanding of the roles that metals and their complexes play in living systems
  • abilities in creative thinking, coherent writing and the assembly, organisation and processing of information and data for a given purpose through problem-solving based on these areas of chemistry.

Entry

This is a Level 3 course. Level 3 courses build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at Levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. 

You are advised to prepare yourself for this course by taking our key introductory Level 1 course, Exploring science (S104), and our Level 2 course, The molecular world (S205) . These will have covered most of the necessary background. You can get an idea of the level required by looking at the S205 study material. Your regional or national centre will be able to tell you where you can see reference copies, or you can buy selected materials from Open University Worldwide Ltd.

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the course, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are You Ready For S347? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course or whether you need a little extra preparation. This can be viewed or printed from the Are you ready for science? website. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

You may find the following useful as background reading:

D.E. Fenton, Biocoordination Chemistry (1995) (Oxford Chemistry Primer), Oxford University Press

P. Atkins et al, Shriver and Atkins Inorganic Chemistry (2006), Oxford University Press, 4th edition. ISBN-13: 978-0-19-926463-6

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

A number of the learning outcomes for the course are underpinned by concepts that depend on ideas supported by a mixture of complex figures, schematics, tables, mathematical and chemical equations and reaction schemes. Achieving these learning outcomes may be challenging if a student has severe visual impairment. Students concerned about the visual aspects of the course should contact their regional adviser for more information. Students who use specialist hardware and software or those with queries about other additional needs can also contact their adviser for assistance or advice.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, a website which delivers additional study materials, online resources and forum, other printed materials and DVD

You will need

To engage in the online tutorials you will need a headset with microphone. Broadband internet access is desirable.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some course software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. The course forum will provide continuous study support, and act as a virtual self-help group and enable students to support one another. We will also offer online tutorials, in which you are encouraged to participate.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

The TMAs have a total workload equivalent of two full TMAs.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2014 when it will be available for the last time. 

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code S347
Credits 20
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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