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Systems & Synthetic Biology - BIO00026H

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  • Department: Biology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jamie Wood
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2017-18

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2018-19

Module aims

Computational and mathematical methods are having an increasingly important role in biology. This module aims to describe firstly the motivations behind this phenomenon, its advantages and possibilities as well as its difficulties. These will then be illustrated by detailed case studies of a number of successes and works in progress. The module will give the student an overview of the different approaches and techniques available in this wide field.

The module will provide an introduction to the relatively new subjects of systems biology and synthetic biology and how these more quantitative and mathematical approaches are being used to solve biological problems. Lectures will present mathematical techniques and the possibilities of synthetic biology and examples of important research advances in this field, including metabolic models, network inference, categorisation of modules and motifs, large scale kinetic models, synthetic construction of genomes and synthetic modules. The importance of how the integration of mathematical techniques with biology will help us to comprehend the huge volumes of data now available will be emphasised.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, a student should be able to:

  • Provide an overview of systems biology applications and their impact on biology.
  • Be aware of the principle mathematical techniques used in systems biology and how cycles of mathematical and experimental study can lead to new biological insights.
  • Understand the process of whole organism metabolic model construction and analysis using flux balance analysis.
  • To understand the importance of motifs and modules in networks and describe a subset of importance motifs
  • Realise the great potential of largescale kinetic models, but understand the complexities of creating and parameterising them.
  • Describe the potential of Systems and Synthetic Biology but be mindful of the problems.


Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Systems and synthetic biology
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Systems and synthetic biology
2 hours 100

Module feedback

Feedback on your progress is important to your learning process; Stage 3 and 4 scripts are not returned to you, but you will be given feedback on your January examinations by the middle of the spring term and will also have an opportunity to view the examiners’ comments on your scripts at the end of the spring and summer terms.

Module marks are made available to both you and your supervisor via your eVision account as soon as the marks are available, by week 6 of the spring term and week 8 of the summer term. You are expected to discuss your performance and progress with your supervisor in your mid-spring term and end of summer term supervisory meetings.

A histogram of all module marks is produced and posted on the examinations notice board outside Biology Student Services.

Specimen answers are posted on the web: by comparing the specimen answers with your own, you should obtain a clear idea of what was expected of you. For each module the markers will also give general feedback on how well the questions were answered and point out any standard errors that students may have made.

Indicative reading

There are no books that cover the entirety of this course. Alon U., An Introduction to Systems Biology (chapters 14) is the most useful, but has a slightly different focus from this course. Research and review papers will be recommended for each lecture.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.