Skip to main content


BIO2017 : Microbiology

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Frank Sargent
  • Lecturer: Dr Fiona Cuskin
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This is a Stage 2 Molecular Microbiology module. The aim of this module is to introduce a limited number of specific topics within the area of molecular microbiology (with a focus on bacteriology in particular) that will underpin the more specialised areas that students will encounter in Stage 3 and 4. It will build knowledge and understanding in the main threads of modern molecular microbiology. The module aims to strengthen students’ skills in evaluation of scientific literature, and in self-directed learning. It also aims to build on microbiology laboratory skills and provide some experience in project planning and data analysis. The lab skills developed will be of value in BIO2033 Bioprospecting.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module has two distinct ‘Theory’ and ‘Practical’ aspects. Prior knowledge of the Theory part is not a requirement for success in the Practical part.

The Theory section comprises 2 • 5-lecture blocks, perfectly timetabled without overlap. There will be a coherent 5-lecture block covering bacterial membrane biology, DNA uptake, and some applied aspects. There will be a second coherent 5-lecture block covering the gut microbiota and molecular aspects of energy metabolism carried out by gut bacteria.

The practical session involves a week-long mini-project that sits between the two blocks of theory. Students will work in pairs or small groups wherever possible, and togetehr will work through some simple tasks across five consecutive laboratory sessions. All the groups will work on the same project. They will test a bacterial two-component signal transduction system and perform some mutagenesis and sequence analysis on the system. Practical tasks will involve transformation of Escherichia coli with plasmid DNA, serial dilutions of liquid cultures; analysis of limits of chemical detection in the environment; random mutagenesis of plasmid DNA; and sequence analysis.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:0050 minutes each, may be shorter.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion15:005:00Take home open book exam assess. prep and completion. 1 wk between question release & completion.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Four weeks from end of project time to report submission deadline.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical53:0015:00Practical mini-project. 1 week in the teaching labs, no lectures originally scheduled for this week.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study160:0060:00Student selected study of lectures & mats. original papers etc. Optional drop in surgery with staff
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures – this tends to be a large class size for a Stage 2 module (100-170 students). Speaking to everyone en masse is pretty much the only way to engage them as a group. Lectures will be designed to stress the specific Intended Learning Outcomes, to highlight the key golden nuggets of knowledge need to meet those outcomes, and to give information on further research that could be done to deepen knowledge and understanding.

Practical – this is intended to be as authentic a lab experience as is possible at Stage 2. There will be an element of teamwork – requiring communication and planning skills. Practical skills in basic microbiology techniques will be practiced and perfected over an extended time. Data analysis, data visualisation and report writing will be as close to industry standard as possible.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M40Lab report (max. 1500 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

‘PC Exam’ (take-home open-book format) – The students will have the choice of 1 of 2 questions. One based on the ILOs of the first block of 5 lectures, and one based on the ILOs of the second. One week to research and compose a short essay-type answer (1000-1500 words, depending on SNES and Faculty guidelines for a 10 credit module). This is an authentic assessment for the class size and appropriate preparation for Stage 3.

‘Lab Report’ – This is an authentic assessment as short lab reports (with clearly presented data) are the norm in the biotechnology industry and beyond. A template will be provided and a limit of 1000 words applied.

Reading Lists