Synthetic Biology: Concepts and Applications BIOL5230

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Molecular Biosciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course explores the concepts of rational design, computer modelling, construction and characterization of Synthetic Biology systems and devices. Students will have the opportunity to design, build, and test a simple genetic circuit or metabolic pathway, and plan a more complex Synthetic Biology project.


Lectures, computer sessions, tutorials/student presentations and lab classes in semester 2

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Laboratory report 2000 - 3000 words (80%)

Group presentation (10%)

Laboratory plan (10%)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

No reassessment will be allowed for the group presentation or the Lab Plan

Course Aims

Synthetic Biology is the design and construction of new biological systems, or the redesign of existing biological systems, for useful purposes. This course aims to provide a deep and critical understanding of Synthetic Biology and its underlying principles, and familiarise the students with its experimental practice by giving them an opportunity to design, construct and analyse their own synthetic gene circuit or pathway.

Specifically this course aims to:

■ Introduce the theory of Synthetic Biology including the use of genetic circuits for logic gates, oscillators and switches, as well as metabolic pathways for bioremediation and high value chemical or biofuel production.

■ Teach the processes of gene discovery and refactoring for reusable function and design.

■ Allow the students to choose and critically review a significant paper from the Synthetic Biology literature.

■ Give practical experience of gene circuit design, assembly and charactization in the context of a mini iGEM competition.

Allow the students to present their plans and results to fellow students in brainstorming and progress report sessions.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

■ Design gene circuits to carry out logical operations and represent their function as Boolean networks.

■ Use computer software to refactor genes for synthetic biology.

■ Critically evaluate alternative methods for gene assembly.

■ Construct gene circuits / metabolic pathways using one of these methods.

■ Design and execute experiments to characterise and diagnose the function of synthetic gene circuits.

Intellectual Skills

■ Identify, summarise and critically evaluate relevant published papers.

■ Organise and critically review concepts, methods and results into a lab report structured as a scientific paper.

■ Identify core concepts to assist in a lab plan.

Transferable/key skills

■ Demonstrate their presentation skills by explaining a synthetic biology iGEM project to their peers.

■ Critically evaluate the ideas, designs, and the work of their peers in planning, brainstorming and feedback sessions.

■ Plan and manage time effectively.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.