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BSc Biomedical Sciences

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:

Unit code EART30831
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course will be delivered by Prof Lloyd, augmented with invited guest lectures as appropriate covering emerging “hot topics” in the area. Initial lectures will focus on the “microbiological basics” to make sure that all of the students on the course have the required foundations, followed by lectures (and group activities) covering fundamental elemental cycles, including an emphasis on the ways that these natural processes can be utilised in diverse areas of science of technology. These will include bioremediation, high value bionanomaterial synthesis and the safe exploitation of the subsurface.



The aim of this course is to provide insight into the role that microorganisms play or have played in geological processes, covering the molecular-scale mechanisms of global bioprocesses, through to high technology biotechnological applications



Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe a range of techniques important for geomicrobiological research, including the techniques of microbiology, molecular biology, mineralogy and geochemistry

  • Explain how microorganisms control the chemistry of Earth (and potentially other planets)

  • Critically analyse seminal geomicrobiological papers from the peer review literature

  • Explain how natural microbiological processes can be used for applications including bioremediation and the safe exploitation of the subsurface



Teaching and learning methods

The course typically consists of 2 hour lecture slots each week, covering 1-2 topics, with time included for discussions with the students.

The following specific topics will be included:

  • Techniques for geomicrobiology.
  • The origin of life and astrobiology.
  • Microbial diversity of modern Earth.
  • The geomicrobiology of carbon, silica, phosphorous, nitrogen, sulfur, iron, manganese, toxic trace metals and radionuclides.
  • Applications of geomicrobiology including bioremediation, safe geological disposal (including CO2 and radwaste) and bioenergy production.

In addition, there will be assessed “breakout” group presentations on approaches for geomicrobiological sampling and analyses (e.g. for extreme environments, such as the deep subsurface, life on other planets, hydrothermal vents), and a poster session on seminal geomicrobiology papers from the scientific literature. These carry 30% of the course marks.

There will also be a revision session at the end of the course, where past papers from the course are discussed. The final exam (two questions from a choice of four, 1.5 hr total time) carries 70% of the course marks.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written exam 70%

Exam, 1.5 hours (70%)

Oral (group) presentation on sampling & analysis, 15 minutes (15%)

Presentation (poster) on seminal papers from the literature (15%)

Feedback methods

Exam, 1.5 hours - Written feedback after exam

Oral (group) presentation on sampling & analysis, 15 minutes - Verbal feedback in the week after presentations 

Presentation (poster) on seminal papers from the literature - Written feedback after poster presentations

Recommended reading

Selected chapters from:  Brock Microbiology, Ehrlich Geomicrobiology, Konhauser Geomicrobiology.  Research papers and key reviews cited in the lectures. Direct links provided in lectures.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Practical classes & workshops 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 78

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Lloyd Unit coordinator

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