Module BSX-3142:
Env. Microbiol. and Biotech.

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof James McDonald

Overall aims and purpose

This module focuses on two important aspects of microbiology; the interaction of microorganisms with one another and with their environment, and the exploitation of microbes and microbial processes for use in the biotechnology industry.

The lecture content of this module will introduce various topical issues in microbiology, including the role of microorganisms in biogeochemical cycling, microbial biodiversity and adaptation in “extreme” environments, biofilm formation and microbial community structure, and the use of molecular biological techniques to assess microbial ecology. The biotechnological application of microbes as “metabolic factories” to generate useful products such as enzymes and proteins, in bioremediation, the remediation of oil spills and in the conversion of naturally occurring compounds such as lignocellulose for biofuel production will also be addressed. For assignment 1, you will write a 3000 word review and opinion article based on the lecture content.

In the second part of the module, you will conceive a hypothetical Biotechnology start-up company based on a topic of interest from the lecture content. You will have the opportunity to design and conduct experiments to exploit a beneficial property of a microorganism of your choice (from a selection of bacterial strains provided). Teaching staff on the module will be on hand to advise you in the design and execution of your experimental work. You will also attend a workshop on how to produce a business plan based on your biotech start-up idea in preparation for assignments 2 and 3. You will present your ‘pitch’ to a panel of potential investors (assignment 2) and prepare a scientific proposal (assignment 2) based on your companies research project.

Course content

Lectures and lab tours (20 hours) The lecture content of this module introduces the student to the following key concepts in environmental microbiology and biotechnology: - Microbial phylogeny and physiological diversities of prokaryotes - The microbiology of extreme environments - An introduction to microbial ecology - Molecular tools used in microbial ecology - Industrial Biotechnology - Metagenomics - DNA sequencing technology - Oil, bugs and the sea - Biogeochemical cycles - Microbial biodegradation - The industrial importance of cellulases - Second generation biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass

You will also take a tour of the research labs of Dr. McDonald, Dr. Golyshina and Prof. Golyshin where you will hear about their ongoing research programmes and see the technologies used in this research, in addiiton to demonstrations of techniques and approaches.

Biotechnology start-up company exercise (24 hours; 6-hours of workshops, 4 x 4-hour practicals, 2-hour presentation session)

Students will conceive a (hypothetical) Biotechnology start-up company based on a topic of interest from the lecture content. Students will design and conduct experiments to generate preliminary data, prepare a scientific paper based on their companies research project, and present their ‘pitch’ to a panel of potential investors.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

A threshold student should have a basic knowledge of the essential facts and key concepts of environmental microbiology and biotechnology, the diversity and physiology of microbial life forms and the potential to harvest physiological traits of microorganisms for use in biotechnological processes. The scientific paper, oral presentation and the exam essay will demonstrate the students ability to research and organise material from the lectures and text books into a coherent argument.

good

A good student should have a thorough factual knowledge across all aspects of environmental microbiology and biotechnology. The scientific paper, oral presentation and the exam essay should demonstrate an ability to think critically about the subject and to synthesise material not only from lectures, scientific literature and text books but also from a wider range of resources such as scientific articles, manuscripts, the media and online resources.

excellent

A very good student should have a detailed and conceptual knowledge of all aspects of environmental microbiology, the interaction of microorganisms with one another and with their environment; and the exploitation of microbes and microbial processes for use in the biotechnology industry. The scientific paper, oral presentation and the exam essay should demonstrate critical analysis, creative thinking and knowledge above the expected text book level, drawing upon information from a wider range of resources such as scientific articles, manuscripts, the media, online resources and other taught modules.

Learning outcomes

  1. Develop oral presentation skills as part of a group presentation to the class. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.4 graduate and key skills, 3.7 information technology skills & 3.8 interpersonal and teamwork skills)

  2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the adaptation and diversity of microbial life on Earth and their physiological role in key biological processes. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge, 3.3 generic skills & 3.5 intellectual skills)

  3. Demonstrate an appreciation of the potential to harness microbial processes for biotechnological applications and a creative approach to the use of microorganisms in industry. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge, 3.3 generic skills & 3.5 intellectual skills)

  4. Critically evaluate scientific literature and prepare a scientific manuscript based on the student-led group activity. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge, 3.3 generic skills, 3.4 graduate and key skills, 3.5 intellectual skills, 3.6 practical skills, 3.7 information technology skills)

  5. Work effectively both as a member of a group and individually to complete the student-led group activity (Biotech start-up company). (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge, 3.3 generic skills, 3.4 graduate and key skills, 3.5 intellectual skills, 3.6 practical skills, 3.7 information technology skills, 3.8 interpersonal and teamwork skills & 3.9 self-management and professional development skills)

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
WRITTEN PLAN Written scientific proposal 40
COURSEWORK Review and opinion article 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Practical classes and workshops

Practicals and Workshops (4 hour business plan and entrepreneurship workshop and 4 x 6 hour practical sessions). In the second part of the module, students will take part in a "Dragon's Den" style student-led practical group exercise in which they will conceive a Biotechnology start-up company based on a topic of interest from the lecture content. Students will conduct experiments to optimise the production of a biotechnologically relevant product produced by a microorganism of interest. The group will prepare a scientific paper based on their companies research project and present their `pitch' to a panel of potential investors. Workshops will provide students with the opportunity to develop key skills, practical skills and employability skills by conducting experiments, interacting in group discussions, obtaining formative feedback and providing peer assessment in workshop activities that include, Critical review of scientific literature (preparation for summative assessment), Enterprise skills (preparation for summative assessment) and a Biotech company start-up exercise.

28
Lecture

Lectures/tutorials/workshops (20 hours). The lecture/tutorial block focuses on two important aspects of microbiology; the interaction of microorganisms with one another and with their environment; and the exploitation of microbes and microbial processes for use in the biotechnology industry. These sessions are delivered as class lectures, tutorials, research seminars, laboratory tours and practical demonstrations.

20
Group Project

Student presentations. Students will present their pitch to a panel of potential investors.

2
Private study

Completion of individual and group assignments.

150

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: