Genetic engineering has led to a ‘paradigm’ shift in the way we can produce organisms with tailored attributes, Stemming from progress in genetic engineering, synthetic biology is heralded as the next technological revolution. By drawing from biology, chemistry, engineering and computing, synthetic biology allows biological systems to be redesigned and new ‘life' to be designed and constructed. The technology promises dramatic environmental and medical benefits, but at the same time raises major ethical issues and ultimately challenges our definition of ‘life'.
Aims and Objectives
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- an understanding of the main current research trends in synthetic biology and how they are likely to develop over the next decade
- a critical appreciation of the ethical issues and likely societal impacts that are associated with the different aspects of genetic modification and synthetic biology
- strategies for acquiring, collating, interpreting, evaluating and presenting complex technical information from cutting-edge research publications
- a sound and critical understanding of the molecular biology techniques used to achieve genetic modification
- a sound understanding of the different aspects of chemistry that are involved in genetic modification and synthetic biology and how they are used
- a broad and critical understanding of the expected technological applications that will stem from the development of synthetic biology
- a basic understanding of adventure and innovation in cross-disciplinary research
The philosophy underlying this course is to empower students to take charge of their own learning in the area of synthetic biology. As a consequence the course will make extensive use of directed and peer-assisted self-learning methods.
The module will be delivered in the context of 3 genome engineering research targets:
- genome modification
- assembly of synthetic genomes for minimal genome organisms
- engineering of biochemical pathways for biotechnology applications
The module will cover four broad areas:
Genome editing, modification and synthesis techniques Topics include transformation, Zinc Finger Nucleases, TALENS,
Nucleic acids and Genomes This includes: transcription and translation of DNA; genome architectures (bacterial chromosomes, plasmids); genome processes; basic principles of gene regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes; polymerase chain reaction; siRNA.
Genetic circuits Topics include: logic elements from simple gene circuits; gene network energetics; predicting properties of genetic networks.
Societal impacts of genetic engineering. Topics include: ecosystem implications of germ-line genetic modification; unconstrained release of GMOs; enhancing human, animal or plant attributes.
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
The module will consist of a small number of ‘traditional' lectures, which will be used to deliver some of the key background knowledge in areas such as nucleic acid chemistry, basic biochemistry, molecular biology, gene regulation, screening methods, genetic circuits etc. These lectures will provide the framework for a series of interactive sessions that involve directed self-learning activities centred around the use of primary literature sources. There will be several group-work activities, presentation and discussion sessions as well as workshops. The module will end with a mini-symposium at which they present the results of their final assignment.
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||10|
|Completion of assessment task||40|
|Supervised time in studio/workshop||20|
|Wider reading or practice||22|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
Synthetic biology information gateways; The Royal Society; Wikipedia - Synthetic biology; Genetically Modified Organisms; Technology Networks.
A comprehensive resource pack is provided on Blackboard at the beginning of the course.
The performance of the students will be assessed through:
- individual and group presentations
- written assignments
Students will be assessed for:
- overall understanding of the application of key scientific and technical concepts
- accessing a wide range of information sources
- understanding and critical evaluation of research publications and reports
- ability to identify risks and ethical issues
- innovative thinking
This is how we’ll give you feedback as you are learning. It is not a formal test or exam.Workshop activities
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
This is how we’ll assess you if you don’t meet the criteria to pass this module.
Repeat type: Internal & External