Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 17 x 1 h lectures
Practical 4 x 3 hours practicals (duplicated)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Continuous assessment of practicals via multiple choice tests.  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   written semester examination.  70%
Supplementary Assessment 2 Hours   2 hour written examination; re-submission of failed course work.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module the student should be able to

  • evaluate the importance of micro-organisms in biogeochemical cycling and biotechnology
  • explain how micro-organisms interact with other organisms, including humans, as pathogens and mutualists.
  • describe the diversity of life forms within the eukaryotic and prokaryotic micro-organisms
  • demonstrate practical skills in handling micro-organisms


The lecture course begins with a discussion of the three domains of life and includes a comparison of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Most of the genetic and metabolic diversity of living organisms is microbial and this is highlighted from the outset of the module. Applied aspects of microbiology, which have direct relevance to man, such as the importance of microbes in fermented foods (e.g. wine, cheeses etc.), in pharmaceutical production (e.g. penicillin/enzymes) and as biocontrol agents is discussed.
The prokaryotic Bacteria and Archaea are introduced, emphasising morphology, physiology and ecology and concluding with examination of their role in human diseases. The structure and life cycles of viruses are explored and their role in disease and ecosystem function is investigated.
The kingdom Fungi is introduced through a survey of the major groups. This set of lectures discusses the classification of living organisms are classified and the diversity of form, genetic systems and life strategies. Fungal growth is examined beginning with the hyphal tip and ending with a discussion of the organisation of the fungal mycelium. This section of the module concludes with an overview of the role of fungi in terrestrial decomposition, in plant disease and as mutualistic symbionts of plants and animals.
The final section of the course explores the diversity of form and function of photosynthetic micro-organisms, introducing both photosynthetic prokaryotes and eukaryotes (algae). Cell ultrastructure, morphology, growth and reproduction, nitrogen fixation and heterocyst function in cyanobacteria are then considered.
Practical classes illustrate and consolidate aspects of the lecture course. Students will use light microscopy to examine a range of micro-organisms. Students will gain key skills in the safe handling of micro-organisms through simple experimental investigations. By the end of the course students will have acquired basic knowledge of sterile handling techniques by the end of the course. Video microscopy is extensively used to help in interpretation of the practical material. Practicals are assessed by means of tests within the practical classes.


This module is designed to introduce students to the diversity of microbial life and the importance of micro-organisms as pathogens, as mutualists (e.g. animal digestive systems, mycorrhizas etc.) in biotechnology (food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, etc.) and in ecosystem function.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Campbell, N. and Reece, J. (2005) Biology 7 Benjamin Cummings Publishers Primo search
Reference Text
Deacon, J. W. (1999.) Modern mycology /J.W. Deacon. Blackwell Scientific Primo search Madigan, Michael T. (2006.) Brock biology of microorganisms /Michael T. Madigan, John M. Martinko. Pearson Education Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4