Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Microbes in Industry and Research
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 3 x 1 hour lectures per week (33 hours)
Other 7 x 2 hour workshops / seminars (14 hours)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Individual case study report.  30%
Semester Assessment Group presentation.  10%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Theory paper.  60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Give specific examples of microbes used in biotechnology and of how such organisms have been selected and improved.

2. Select and perform appropriate data analysis techniques to quantify growth and viability of microbes.

3. Critically evaluate the use of microbes as model organisms.

Brief description

Microbes are exploited for a number of reasons; they have a short generation time, tools exist to perform genetic manipulations and the ethical concerns that apply to research on animals do not affect microbial research to the same extent. Consequently, whether working in industry or a research environment many biologists do at least some of their work with microbes. This module contributes to the academic background and directly applicable skills for this.


The module will provide a brief introduction to the ubiquity and metabolic flexibility of microorganisms. Ethical and practical considerations of utilising microbes will be discussed. Methods for the measurement of microbial growth and viability will be covered as an underpinning technique to working with microorganisms. Interpretation of results of microbial experiments will also be facilitated in workshops. Examples of exploitation of microbes within the biotechnology industry will include alcoholic fermentation in brewing & biofuels, production of antibiotics & enzymes etc. The potential for misuse of microbes (bioterrorism) will also be considered.
This module will also introduce and develop the concept of using both prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes as model organisms. Tools and techniques will be introduced along with the results of research with microbes that has led to an improved understanding of processes in multicellular eukaryotes. Exemplars will be chosen to reflect current hot topics but will initially include ageing, cancer and the development of intercellular communication and multicellularity.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Workshops will involve calculations relevant to the course material including total and viable counts of microbes, growth rate etc. This will be assessed via the case study.
Communication Listening skills in lectures, verbal communication with staff and peers during workshops and writing skills in assessments will all be developed. Student-led seminars will facilitate peer communication using verbal and written communication in peer teaching.
Improving own Learning and Performance Outside the formal contact hours, students will be expected to research materials, practice with directed learning exercises and manage their own time. Engagement with wider reading will be assessed via the examination.
Information Technology Accessing the web for information sources and using websites provided in the directed learning materials to practice skills acquired. Use of Excel, Word and Powerpoint will all be developed.
Personal Development and Career planning Not a major component of this module.
Problem solving Lectures will introduce methods of performing microbial growth and viability analysis Workshops will extend this with worked examples and will support the assessed data analysis within the case study which will be assessed.
Research skills Directed study materials and links will be provided on Blackboard allowing students to research topics beyond the scope of the lecture material. A particular case study (e.g. biotechnological application or model organism) will be researched in depth.
Subject Specific Skills Students will gain microbiological data analysis skills and experience transferable to research careers.
Team work Students will work in pairs/small groups during workshop sessions. Preparation for and presentation of case studies will be performed in groups and contribution from group members will be peer assessed.


This module is at CQFW Level 6