Synthetic Biology

Course content

Synthetic biology applies a novel conceptual framework to biology. By introducing engineering concepts, synthetic biology forms the basis for new developments in medicine, pharmaceutical science, plant biology, sustainable development, 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, registries and foundries of parts, 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 testing of new systems. It is foreseen that synthetic biology will address several of the world’s most pressing challenges, including many of the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SGDs) of United Nations, e.g. by generating new possibilities for clean energy, more sustainable and healthy food production, better medicines available for all people on Earth.

The course will bridge across different areas of contemporary synthetic biology. It will start from metabolic engineering of organisms for the production of high-value compounds and continue to explore topics at the frontier of synthetic biology, such as biosensors, gene circuits, synthetic metabolism, synthetic evolution, minimal organisms, etc. Some examples of topics covered in the course are given below:

1. General concepts and enabling technologies for synthetic biology
2. Plant metabolic engineering
3. Engineering photosynthetic organisms for light-driven synthesis
4. Yeast metabolic engineering for the production of high-value compounds
5. Single molecule fluorescence microscopy for the analysis of synthetic biosystems
6. Lipid membranes as tools for synthetic biology
7. Whole-cell biosensors
8. Engineering and evolution of synthetic metabolic pathways
9. Biosafety-Biosecurity

Beside the selected topics, the course includes a journal club where hot topics in synthetic biology are presented and debated between the participants.

In addition to the lectures, a focal part of the course is the development of specific case studies by the students. In groups, the students are invited to bring their own synthetic biology ideas to life by conceiving and designing a complete synthetic biology project. The case studies include the complete activities  from conceptualization to experimental design, intellectual property issues, commercialization strategy, communication and human practices, ethical aspects, and consideration of biosecurity issues.


MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Biotechnology with a minor subject
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 and sustainability. A wide variety of topics in metabolic engineering, biochemistry, protein engineering, biotechnology, nano-technology, and structural biology will be covered. These insights will stimulate participants for creative thinking, will provide them the ability to work across disciplines, and inspire them on how we can implement our knowledge for more environmentally friendly applications and solutions. 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. The course will emphasize the impact synthetic biology can have to innovative and sustainable approaches and strategies in order to mitigate climatic changes. In parallel,  show how synthetic biology can contribute to improved human health, clean energy, or improved foods.

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. Familiarization with specific 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.

7.Acquire digital competences in relation to scientific information search

                             Data source criticism

                             Search strategies and techniques

8. Obtain skills in communicating scientific data

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.

7. Preparation of digital scientific presentations and science dissemination.

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. Digital competences, such as scientific information search, evaluation of data sources, search strategies and search techniquesspecific to obtaining information relating to synthetic biology, identification of data in connection with synthetic biology problem-solving strategies, and synthetic biology results and data communication in oral and written form.

Lecture: Delivery of material in lecture format (30%) Discussion or group work, theoretical exercises & case studies (40%) 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
Type of assessment details
No preparation time.

Weight: Oral examination 100%

Individual oral examination based on
• presentation of case study and questions related to it
• discussion and questions related to the written experimental reports and theoretical exercises
• discussion and questions related to general knowledge in synthetic biology, experimental applications and concepts
Exam registration requirements

The exam requires submission of one case study and one approved written experimental report.

The case study will be developed during the course, handed in to the course organiser, and presented to the group before the examination.

The lab report will be on practical work carried out in the course, and has to be handed in and approved before the exam.


Only certain aids allowed

Only copies of reports and written assignments and laptop or printed handouts for the case study ppt presentation.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examinators

Reexam as ordinary exam.

If the requirements are not met a report on a given topic must be handed in no later than 2 weeks before the re-exam.


Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Part time Master and Diploma courses

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


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 3
No limitation
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
  • Department of Food Science
  • Department of Media, Cognition and Communication
  • Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
  • Department of Chemistry
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Sotirios Kampranis   (4-797571674676726b7434717b346a71)

Science; Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences: Sotirios Kampranis, Birger Lindgerg Møller, Thomas Günther-Pomorski, Irini Pateraki, Karel Miettinen, Feiyan Liang, Jon Fugl, Yong Zhao
Science; Department of Chemistry: Nikos Hatzakis
Science; Department of Food Science: Poul-Erik Jensen
Humanities; Department of Media, Cognition and Communication: Sune Holm
Health; Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology: Søren G.F. Rasmussen

Saved on the 28-02-2023

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