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Unit information: Synthetic Biology in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Synthetic Biology
Unit code BIOCM0017
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Savery
Open unit status Not open

Advanced Cell Biology BIOC30601 The Dynamic Proteome BIOC30604 Cellular Information BIOC30602 Advanced Options in Biochemistry BIOC30600, Research and Communication Skills BIOC3NEW5, Research Training BIOC3NEW6


All Year 4 units within the MSci

School/department School of Biochemistry
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit will cover the emerging field of synthetic biology and will focus on showcasing a number of Bristol’s research strengths in this area. Students will take a case-based approach to the investigation of topics and will develop an in-depth understanding of the techniques and approaches used to solve novel research problems in biochemistry. Students will cover three main areas:

  • Enzyme cascades and cell factories
  • Self-assembled systems and protocells
  • Programming complexity in natural systems

Each topic will be covered over a 2 week period and students will be expected to attend keynote lectures before being set a series of recent research papers to read and synthesize. They will be given opportunities to discuss and consolidate their knowledge through workshops and plenary lectures.

Over the course of the unit students will be expected to

  • Develop scientific ideas
  • Investigate the scientific process
  • Critique and synthesize ideas
  • Take an evidence-based approach to solving scientific problems

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of the latest developments in synthetic biology
  2. Evaluate methodologies and approaches used in synthetic biology research
  3. Appraise the scientific literature in the synthetic biology field
  4. Formulate approaches to studying synthetic biology research problems

Teaching details

Lectures and workshops

Assessment Details

For learning (formative)

Workshop participation

Mock exam question sessions

Of learning (summative)

Written exam (60%): a 3 hr consisting of literature comprehension/data handling questions based on prior reading plus unseen short answers

Coursework (40%):

  • 20% “News and Views” type summary article (2000 words)
  • 10% group short oral presentation
  • 10% individual poster

Reading and References

Reviews and articles from the primary scientific Literature