Synthetic Biology

Course content

Synthetic biology applies a novel conceptual framework in biology. By introducing engineering concepts, synthetic biology forms the basis for new developments in medicine, pharmaceutical science, plant biology and material science. Fundamental technologies that are central to synthetic biology include: DNA synthesis, high-throughput genetic manipulation methods, facile access to off-the-shelf standardized biological parts and devices, parts registries, and computer-aided genetic design. Advanced tools that enable the integration of basic synthetic units into multi component devices are continuously being developed, and a variety of modern analytical techniques and computational tools are applied in the design and tests of new systems. It is foreseen that synthetic biology will adderess several of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Fundamentals: Basic concepts, definitions.
Tools: Introduction to the experimental tool-set used in synthetic biology.
Recent advances and future trends
Industrial Applications: Linking theory and business
Ethical Issues: Public concerns and debate

The course will focus on topics in the frontier of synthetic biology. Examples of selected topics are:

1. General concepts and enabling technologies for synthetic biology
2. Lipid membranes – Tools for synthetic biology
3. Synthetic biology in Photosynthetic organisms - light driven synthesis
4. Engineering yeast cells for the production of high-value compounds
5. Single molecule fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy
6. Synthesis of terpene compounds and combinatorial biosynthesis
7. G-protein coupled receptors and the use of synthetic nano-sized materials to study their structure and function
8. Plant synthetic biology
9. Biosafety

Beside the selected topics the course include case studies.


MSc Programme in Biology-Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Molecular Biomedicine

Learning outcome

Participants will obtain broad knowledge on the main subject areas of synthetic biology with emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. A wide variety of topics in biotechnology, nano-technology, neuroscience, biochemistry and structural biology will be covered. These insights will develop creativity and the ability to work across disciplines. By introducing advanced techniques from various research areas, students will acquire practical skills that can be applied to other research fields. The course will enhance group collaboration and interdisciplinary communication.

1. Understanding of the basic concepts of synthetic biology.
2. Acquisition of the common vocabulary essential for synthetic biology (e.g. standard part, chassis, etc.).
3. Description of the main current focus and concerns regarding scientific, ethical and regulatory aspects.
4. Knowledge of the prospects of combining biology with engineering and technology.
5. Broad insight and coherent knowledge on interdisciplinary research.
6. Familiarization with the most recent published literature in the field and insight into ongoing research.

1. Understand how fundamental tools can be applied to the engineering of biology.
2. Identify aspects of biotechnology that faciltate or prevent the faster, reliable programming of natural systems.
3. Understand current and future applications of synthetic biology.
4. Apply fundamental laboratory approaches into engineering biology.
5. Ability to engage in interdisciplinary research.
6. Preparation of reports and proper handling of scientific literature.

1. Ability to apply synthetic biology concepts and principles to solve a real life problem or develop new applications.
2. Ability to discuss the public concerns and ethical dilemmas and the potential solutions offered by synthetic biology.
3. Capability to find a solution for a problem and work independently.
4. Able to apply the concepts and techniques of synthetic biology to other subjects at a high academic level.
5. Able to work efficiently in a collaborative work situation.

6. Ability to prepare and present oral and written work.

Lecture: Delivery of material in lecture format (40%) Discussion or group work & case studies (30%) Lab work: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (30%)

A combination of original research papers, review articles and laboratory manual

The equivalent of a BSc in natural science (biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, chemistry, physics or medical science).

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min (no preparation time)
Individual oral examination based on presentation of case study and discussion of and questions to the written experimental reports and to synthetic biology in general.

Weight: Oral examination 100%
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examinators
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Theory exercises
  • 50
  • Practical exercises
  • 50
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Preparation
  • 65,5
  • English
  • 206,0