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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Postgraduate

Postgraduate Course: The Origins of Synthetic Biology (PGBI11116)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummarySynthetic Biology is broadly defined as a fusion of biology and engineering and aims to design and construct novel molecules, biological systems and organisms for useful purposes. But how did this new discipline arise? What are its origins? The primary objective of this course is to trace back the origins of synthetic biology to their source, within the fields of genetics and molecular biology, in the hope that new practitioners of synthetic biology will gain insight, enthusiasm and perspective on their developing science.
Course description The course will take the form of open and discursive lectures/workshops on the scientific history of genetics, molecular biology and synthetic biology, highlighting recurrent themes and arguments which must be understood in their context.

Lecture 1. The origins of genetics
Lecture 2. From flies to phage: the birth of Molecular Biology
Workshop 1. Eugenics before World War II
Lecture 3. DNA: structure and function
Workshop 2. Communication among scientists
Lecture 4. The central dogma
Lecture 5. Genetic Engineering and the Birth of Synthetic Biology
Transversal lecture. Growth, form and synthetic morphology
Workshop 3. Women in the History of Science

Students will be assessed through a mid-term group presentation and an end-of-term individual essay.

Link to a video describing the course from the Course Organiser:
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 78 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) A group presentation on a theme discussed in class (40%)
A final essay of not more than 2,000 words (60%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have a deeper understanding of the history of genetics & molecular biology and the scientific basis of the synthetic biology field.
  2. Consider the importance of the historical, social and political contexts of scientific discoveries, as well as the ethics of practical biological applications.
  3. Use this knowledge to inform our practice of synthetic biology.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Enhanced scientific analysis skills.
Deeper understanding of the scientific discovery process.
Insight into the thought processes of individuals who had interesting ideas.
Exposure to the ethical and political debates about all forms of 'genetic manipulation'.
KeywordsSynthetic Biology,Genetics,Molecular Biology,History of Science
Course organiserDr Elise Cachat
Tel: (0131 6)50 7780
Course secretaryMs Karen Sutherland
Tel: (0131 6)51 3404
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