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Unit information: Synthetic Biology in 2021/22

Unit name Synthetic Biology
Unit code BIOCM0017
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Dillingham
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

Description including Unit Aims

Lead Contact: Dr Paul Race

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 Information

Lectures and workshops

Assessment Information

For learning (formative)

Workshop participation

Mock exam question sessions

Of learning (summative)

Written assessment (60%): a timed assessment consisting of literature comprehension/data handling questions based on prior reading and essays

Coursework (40%):

  • 20% synthetic metabolic design written report (2000 words)
  • 10% short oral presentation
  • 10% individual poster


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BIOCM0017).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.