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The University of Southampton

BIOL6047 Biofilms and Microbial Communities

Module Overview

BIOL6047 ‘Biofilms and Microbial Communities’ aims to provide an understanding of bacterial biofilms and the environmental, industrial and health care problems related to complex microbial consortia of societal importance. Students will learn to describe and explain the basis for biofilm development in nature and in chronic infections, as well as to understand and interpret the outputs of modern techniques in microbial biofilm research. Biofilms and Microbial Communities’ follows our foundation microbiology courses BIOL2038 and BIOL2044 (either of which will be a prerequisite for the 3rd year module), and directly addresses Southampton’s cross-faculty strengths in biofilm research, and as lead for the National Biofilms Innovation Centre. As such lectures on this module will be contributed by academic members of staff from working on interdisciplinary projects with Health Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, and Ocean and Earth Sciences.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe in detail concepts in biofilm research including: a) The distinction, in terms of physiology and behaviour, between free-living bacteria and biofilm bacteria in environmental and medical settings, b) The biofilm life-cycle, including attachment, development, differentiation, and dispersal that is now established for a number of core model organisms in biofilm research c) The biofilm extracellular matrix, its composition and importance for bacterial survival, d) Evolutionary processes within biofilms, such as cooperation and cheating, and their implications for microbial multicellularity; e) Methods for studying microbial biofilms in the natural environment and disease f) Strategies for the control of biofilms in industrial, environmental or public health benefits
  • Critically evaluate scientific data through use of published literature,
  • Demonstrate effective written scientific communication skills.


The syllabus will concentrate on the following areas: • Biofilm Development (attachment, differentiation and dispersal) • Biofilm Physiology, Viability and Antibiotic Resistance • Microbial Ecology Techniques • Environmental Biofilms • Clinical Biofilms • Biofilms in Industry/Engineering (Biofilm Engineering and Biofilms in Drinking Water) • Evolutionary/Population Processes in Biofilms

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The contact teaching component of this module will be delivered by lecturing (20 lectures). A series of learning outcomes have been established and teaching and non-contact learning are closely aligned with these criteria. A number of the learning outcomes are focused on transferrable skills, including a critical review where students will critique a scientific research article.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hall-Stoodley L, Costerton JW, Stoodley P (2004). Bacterial biofilms: from the natural environment to infectious diseases. Nat Rev Microbiol. ,2 , pp. 95-108.

Webb JS, Givskov M, Kjelleberg S. (2003). Bacterial biofilms: prokaryotic adventures in multicellularity. Curr Opin Microbiol. ,6 , pp. 578-85.


Assessment Strategy

The mark for the module will be allocated as follows: Summative final examination 75%. This will be an unseen written examination, comprising one 2-hour paper requiring two questions to be answered from a choice of four. Formative continuous assessment 25%, comprising 2 assignments (12.5% each), each based on written critical evaluation (~1500 – 2000 words) of an agreed example of the current research literature. The questions will test understanding of the research, critical assessment of flaws and weaknesses as well as independent evaluation and interpretation of the data. The overall pass mark is 40%. Re-assessment Method The mark for the module will be allocated as follows: Summative final examination 75%. This will be an unseen written examination, comprising one 2-hour paper requiring three questions to be answered from a choice of five. Formative continuous assessment: marks carried forward The overall pass mark is 40%.


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment  (2000 words) 12.5%
Written assignment  (2000 words) 12.5%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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