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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Biology

Undergraduate Course: Molecular Microbiology 3 (BILG09013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryMolecular Microbiology provides insight into the fascinating diversity of microorganisms and how they interact with their environment. Many of these interactions are of great benefit to man (e.g. for yoghurt and beer production), as well as harmful (e.g. infectious pathogens). The course explores the basic theory behind several of the most important microbial processes and examines how they operate at a molecular level. The course also has a substantial practical component which is designed to highlight the properties of living microorganisms in action. These practical sessions are aimed primarily at demonstrating how microorganisms can be characterised, controlled or harnessed.
Course description The underlying aim of Molecular Microbiology 3 is to provide deeper insight into how microorganisms work at the molecular level. Microorganisms are the most abundant life forms on the planet, as well as the largest natural reservoir of genetic material available to drive evolution. Thus, they have a major influence on the dynamics of the world as we know it. Many microbial activities are of great benefit to man (e.g. for yoghurt, cheese, bread, alcohol, antibiotics, nutrient cycling, detoxification of pollutants), but others are harmful or even fatal (e.g. infectious diseases of plants, animals and humans, such as potato blight, avian ¿flu¿, and tuberculosis).

This course explores the basic mechanisms of some of the most important microbial processes at a cellular and sub-cellular level. Some of the key questions we will address are: how do bacteria reproduce? How do they communicate with each other, and build multicellular structures? How do they move? How do they produce toxins and other substances to affect their environment? What constitutes a bacterial genome, and how is it affected by plasmids and bacteriophages? Another section of the course relates to fungi, a large, important and under-studied group of organisms which play major roles in the environment. We will look at how fungi grow, interact with each other (even waging fungal 'warfare'), and cause human diseases. Finally, we will consider viruses, the most abundant and diverse 'organisms'. We will consider the key groups of viruses, their properties, and their significance as agents of infectious diseases and cancer, as well as their varied uses in genetic engineering and therapy.

The course also includes a number of key ¿transferable skills¿ elements, including a substantial practical component which is designed to complement the lecture course, and to introduce and reinforce the key techniques required for working with microorganisms. There are also student presentations to enhance oral and written presentation skills, as well as tutorials on literature searching and essay-writing.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed The Microbial World 2 (BILG08018)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Biological Sciences students are automatically eligible to take this course by having completed the compulsory Year 2 courses [Biology 2A (BILG08024), Biology 2B (BILG08025) and Biology 2C (BILG08026)].
Students from other Schools are advised to enquire with the Course Organiser if you are not sure whether this course is suitable for you.
Additional Costs Students must provide a pen, indelible ink marker and notebook
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesEquivalent of the courses listed above
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 21, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 17.5, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 142 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Two items of in course assessment, plus one 2-hour exam.
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To provide a comprehensive knowledge base framework of the key features and functions of the main groups of microorganisms - bacteria, fungi and viruses ¿ and to examine how they operate at a cellular and sub-cellular level.
  2. Through laboratory training, to provide skills in basic microbiological techniques, including molecular genetical techniques, and in safe handling of microorganisms at containment level 2.
  3. Through laboratory exercises and tutorials, to develop skills in critical observation, investigative and interpretative approaches in biology; to promote careful recording and analysis of laboratory work.
  4. Through essays and other written assignments, with feedback from teaching staff, to promote scientific writing skills and to encourage the use of library and other reference sources.
  5. Through an oral presentation, to promote skills in succinct oral communication of science.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and Understanding: All components of the course provide this to some degree but your lectures, in particular, provide an important framework upon which you can build these attributes. This University considers itself to be a research-led Institution and you will be exposed to cutting edge information and ideas as you progress through your degree course. In this course you will develop a comprehensive knowledge of key features and functions of major groups of microorganisms and of how their processes operate at a molecular level.

Research and Enquiry: These skills are enhanced by encouraging further reading of books, research papers and electronic materials, to embellish your lecture and practical material. They underpin your ICA material (essay and summary). Understanding how to use Web of Knowledge, in part, prepares you for these aspects. It provides a route to surveying current and past scientific arguments, in an appropriate context, and provides the foundation for hypothesis driven analysis.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy: By reading and preparation of materials for tutorial sessions, you will learn to synthesise your own views, develop reasoned arguments and further refine your scientific judgement. In addition, in this course we encourage self-development through use of past papers and the online assessment system, Question Mark Perception. Such skills will enhance your capacity for life-long and independent learning.

Communication: This is a key attribute of all scientists and it is therefore important that you develop skills to interact constructively with others and convey knowledgeable and balanced scientific views. Our Presentation and discussion tutorials provide a forum for this but we also encourage these skills in the Course Debate and the Learn Discussion Forum.

Personal Effectiveness: The ability to organise and summarise your thoughts and material in a flexible and accessible way are core features that are required for personal effectiveness. Planning, time management and reflection are central to this. Of course these features also interlink with your personal and intellectual autonomy. By providing you with a timetable where key submission dates are highlighted, we are encouraging you to develop your effectiveness throughout this course. These same skills extend to other courses and also to your overall ability to maximise your achievement whilst studying at this University. However they also apply to every other aspect of your current and future life. Many aspects of what you achieve in your life can be significantly influenced by you!

Technical and Practical Skills: In order to continue in a scientific career it is important that you not only understand the conceptual basis of how experiments are designed and carried out but also that you have the underpinning practical skills required for employability. Our course has a particularly heavy laboratory component which is designed to prepare your for this, as well as to assist you in your future Honours course projects. As part of this, your laboratory training provides skills in basic microbiological techniques, and in safe handling of pathogenic microorganisms. The laboratory skills you develop from your practical sessions, in critical observation, investigation and interpretation, careful recording, quantification and analysis, should serve you well in any future employment.
Course organiserProf Chris French
Tel: (0131 6)50 7098
Course secretaryDr Edward Dewhirst
Tel: (0131 6)50 8649
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