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Semester 1

Molecular Microbiology 3 (BILG09013)







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Course Summary

Molecular Microbiology provides insight into the fascinating diversity of microorganisms and how they interact with their environment. Many of these interactions are of great benefit to man (e.g. for yoghurt and beer production), as well as harmful (e.g. infectious pathogens). The course explores the basic theory behind several of the most important microbial processes and examines how they operate at a molecular level. The course also has a substantial practical component which is designed to highlight the properties of living microorganisms in action. These practical sessions are aimed primarily at demonstrating how microorganisms can be characterised, controlled or harnessed.

Course Description

This course follows on from Microorganisms, Infection & Immunity 2, The Microbial World 2, and Genes and Gene Action 2. Core microbiology material is covered in Molecular Microbiology 3, as preparation for the second semester courses Biotechnology 3 and Medical Microbiology 3.The underlying aim of Molecular Microbiology 3 is to provide deeper insight into how microorganisms work at the molecular level. Microorganisms are the most abundant life forms on the planet, as well as the largest natural reservoir of genetic material available to drive evolution. Thus, they have a major influence on the dynamics of the world as we know it. Many microbial activities are of great benefit to man (e.g. for yoghurt, cheese, bread, alcohol, antibiotics, nutrient cycling, detoxification of pollutants), but others are harmful or even fatal (e.g. infectious diseases of plants, animals and humans, such as potato blight, avian 'flu', and tuberculosis). This course explores the basic mechanisms of some of the most important microbial processes at a cellular and sub-cellular level. Some of the key questions we will address are: how do bacteria reproduce? How do they communicate with each other, and build multicellular structures? How do they move? How do they produce toxins and other substances to affect their environment? What constitutes a bacterial genome, and how is it affected by plasmids and bacteriophages? Other sections of the course relate to fungi, a large, important and under-studied group of organisms which play major roles in the environment. We will look at how fungi grow, interact with each other (even waging fungal 'warfare'), and cause human diseases. Finally, we will consider viruses, the most abundant and diverse 'organisms'. We will consider the key groups of viruses, their properties, and their significance as agents of infectious diseases and cancer, as well as their varied uses in genetic engineering and therapy. The course also includes a number of key transferable skills elements, including a substantial practical component which is designed to complement the lecture course, and to introduce and reinforce the key techniques required for working with microorganisms. There are also student presentations to enhance oral and written presentation skills, as well as a tutorial on effective literature searching, and electronic self-assessment sessions to help you revise the lecture material. Molecular Microbiology 3 is recommended for Biotechnology 3 in second semester and lays the foundations for Biotechnology Honours.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 50%, Coursework 50%, Practical Exam 0%

Additional Assessment Information

Normally two items of in course assessment, plus one 2-hour exam.

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