Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 3 Hours   60%
Semester Assessment Practical report 1  (1500 words)  20%
Semester Assessment Practical report 2  (1500 words)  20%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%
Supplementary Assessment Coursework  (3000 words) Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%

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. Give specific examples of how microbial processes have been adapted for use as molecular biology tools in biotechnology research .

3. Evaluate methods of measuring growth and viability and the challenges of scale-up.

4. Critically assess the approaches of studying microbiomes and use of metaomic technologies for biotechnology.

5. Explain how the development of modern biotechnology is driven by advances in biological methods and techniques.

6. Explain and evaluate case studies in biotechnology.

Brief description

Biotechnology is broadly defined as the use of organisms or biological material to develop or make products for human benefit. Traditional biotechnologies include bread-making and brewing while the products of modern biotechnology include molecular biology products, pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Screening for lead organisms and their modification by genetic engineering as well as design of organisms for specific tasks through synthetic biology are important techniques. Microbes are exploited in biotechnology for a number of reasons; they have a short generation time, tools exist to perform genetic manipulations and the ethical concerns that apply to use of animals do not affect microbial research and exploitation to the same extent. Consequently, whether working in industry or a pure research environment many professional biologists will use a combination of biotechnology techniques and model microbes. This module contributes to the academic background and directly applicable skills for these careers.


The module will provide an introduction to the various branches of biotechnology. Practical considerations of utilising microbes will be discussed and methods for growth of organisms on an industrial scale will be considered. Examples of exploitation of microbes, their products and processes within the biotechnology industry will include alcoholic fermentation in brewing & biofuels, how microbial enzymes and processes such as horizontal gene transfer and CRISPR can be adapted as tools for biotechnology, production of antibiotics & enzymes etc.
Screening for novel organisms and their products will be discussed in the context of a range of different microbiomes and the utilisation of metaomic technology. Microbiomes offer a wealth of potential candidates for discovery of novel bioactives and developments in the area will form a key part of the lecture material and a computer based workshop.
Applications of current and emerging technologies to biotechnology research will be discussed.
The module will conclude with a consideration of ethical aspects of biotechnology.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number This will be developed and assessed through practicals and associated work.
Communication Students will be required to listen effectively in lectures. Students will need to communicate effectively in practicals.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be expected to use resources available through Blackboard and to take responsibility for managing their time to submit work on time.
Information Technology Students will use standard office software plus specialist websites to retrieve and manipulate data.
Personal Development and Career planning Beyond what is already mentioned above, this is not an element of this module, however, the module will raise awareness of relevant career paths in the biotechnology sector.
Problem solving Practicals and the assessment of these will involve solving a variety of problems.
Research skills Research will be required in producing the coursework. Spreadsheets will be used for data handling and analysis.
Subject Specific Skills Practical techniques and core knowledge of broad field of biotechnology as well as specific established and emerging techniques.
Team work Students will be required to work together in practicals.


This module is at CQFW Level 6