BIMBE2-Synthetic Biology

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Mike Fry


Summary module description:

This module will teach students about the application of systems and synthetic biology in the biomolecular sciences. The module will be based around the idea that Biology is a Technology and can be engineered in similar ways to electrical and mechanical devices. The module will examine the current use of bioengineering technology in the area of human health.  Building on the knowledge and skills developed in the Autumn term, this Spring term module will place particular emphasis on current research through discussion of the latest research papers to help convey mechanistic insights and enhance understanding. Student will demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the topic through an assessed individual in silico synthetic biology project


To enable students to understand the ways that synthetic biology could be used for the benefit of humankind with emphasis on its use to develop to new therapeutic options.

Assessable learning outcomes:

At the end of the module students should have a clear concept of the techniques and limitations of synthetic biology. Students will understand how new synthetic organisms can be created using a systems and engineering design based approach. They will be able to use tools to design, model and simulate synthetic circuits with novel functionality.  Students will gain critical reasoning skills by discussion and analysis of recent publications of special importance to health or of exceptional scientific interest in this area.

Additional outcomes:

Students will improve their problem solving and data handling skills and have a better understanding of how to extract and present relevant information from primary research papers.

Outline content:

This module will cover a variety of topics in systems and synthetic biology and the application of genetic modification.  The module will introduce students to concepts in cell and protein engineering. Within this module we will discuss and develop a number of concepts relating to this subject including: Basic Concepts in Engineering, Foundation Technologies, Minimal Cells and Synthetic Life, Parts, Devices and Systems, Modelling Synthetic Biology Systems and Applications of Designed Biological Systems. We will also consider the technology behind recent advances in gene therapy, including site-specific editing tools.  We will also consider the Societal Impact of Systems Biology.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module will primarily be delivered as a small number of introductory lectures followed by class discussions on the topic, weekly paper discussions around key topics in the field, and tutorials of the use of the software required to complete their projects. Students will be expected to give a short formative presentation of their Synthetic Biology project after the break week to get feedback on their progress from the lecturer and the class. Individual study will be required to review the literature in preparation for the tutorials and lectures, and to gain a wider familiarity with the subject matter.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 5
Seminars 5
Tutorials 5
Practicals classes and workshops 5
Guided independent study 180
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Project output other than dissertation 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Students will research, design it through the use of process diagram software, test it in silico (using a simulation program, COPASI) and then present the methodology required for building a novel synthetic gene circuit that would function in an organism of your choice. This will be set in week 1 and will be due for submission in the final week of term.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:

A reassessment piece of work will be provided by the module convenor.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 7 September 2017

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