CSC8315 : Synthetic Biology

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To familiarise students with the data that arises from studies in molecular biology.
To describe the application of engineering principles to the engineering of biological systems.
To educate students about the different stages of the synthetic biology life cycle.
To introduce and demonstrate the theory underlying the concepts and techniques of synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to the design and implementation of biological systems. Synthetic biology is paradigm shift in biology allowing biological systems to be built at a genome scale from parts derived from a diverse range of organisms or even completely synthetic devices. The field has potential applications in areas as diverse as biotechnology, bioremediation, agriculture and medicine. Computational design approaches are required because these systems are complex, stochastic and nonlinear. This module also incorporates a significant laboratory based component since synthetic biology systems require implementation and testing in addition to design.

Outline Of Syllabus

Basic concepts of molecular biology: genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes.
Basic and advanced techniques in genetic engineering.
Engineering biological systems.
Ethical, legal and social implications of synthetic biology.
The synthetic biology life cycle:
- Systems requirements, specification and design.
- Modelling for system verification.
- Strategies for part, device, system and genome implementation.
- Strategies for part, device and system characterisation.
- Feedback from systems level characterisation to design.
Applications of synthetic biology.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion220:3011:00Revision for end of Semester exam & exam duration
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion181:0018:00Lecture follow-up
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical341:0034:00Practicals
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars & tutorials
Guided Independent StudyProject work341:0034:00Coursework
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study731:0073:00Background reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will be used to introduce the learning material and for demonstrating the key concepts by example. Students are expected to follow-up lectures within a few days by re-reading and annotating lecture notes to aid deep learning.

Seminars & tutorials will be used to emphasise the learning material and its application to the solution of problems and exercises set as coursework, during which students will analyse problems as individuals and in teams.

This is a very practical subject, and it is important that the learning materials are supported by hands-on opportunities provided by practical classes. Students are expected to spend time on coursework outside timetabled practical classes.

Students aiming for 1st class marks are expected to widen their knowledge beyond the content of lecture notes through background reading.

Students should set aside sufficient time to revise for the end of semester exam.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M204 pages in Bioinformatics journal format.
Practical/lab report1M30Series of wet laboratory experiments. 6 pages in Bioinformatics journal format.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination will assess the students’ knowledge of the fundamental theories and practice of synthetic biology. The practical component will be assessed as an essay and practical work and will test the students’ ability to apply their skills to the design, implementation and characterisation of synthetic biological systems.

Study abroad students may request to take their exam before the semester 1 exam period, in which case the length of the exam may differ from that shown in the MOF.

N.B. This module has both “Exam Assessment” and “Other Assessment” (e.g. coursework). If the total mark for either assessment falls below 40%, the maximum mark returned for the module will normally be 40%.

Reading Lists