BSc Microbiology / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Microbiology RSM

Unit code BIOL20342
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


This Research Skills Module is designed to develop your experimental design, report writing and practical skills. You will be introduced to microbiology research techniques in a laboratory based project. You will use techniques such as aseptic technique, preparation of growth media and identification of bacterial strains.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Microbes, Man and the Environment BIOL10532 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Prokaryotic Microbiology BIOL21181 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL20342 Pre-requisite is BIOL21181

This unit is compulsory for Microbiology Honours students. It may be selected by Biology, Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology students, and anyone else who has taken BIOL10532 and is doing additional Microbiology units in the second year.


The unit aims to increase the students understanding of the following:

1.         specific skills associated with microbiology including:

a)  good microbiological practice;

b)  enrichment of bacteria from the environment;

c)  microscopy;

d)  differential media for identification of Enterobacteriaceae;

e)  staining techniques to identify the presence/absence of bacterial structures;

f)  basic biochemical tests, such as API strips to identify bacteria;

g)  rDNA sequencing in bacterial identification;

h)  Southern hybridisation to identify deletion mutations in bacterial virulence genes;

i)  semi-quantitative analysis of gene expression in Neurospora using RT¿PCR.

2.         how to plan experiments and work independently.

3.         how to analyse, interpret and record data.

4.         how to present data in a research paper format.


Learning outcomes

Students will have mastered:

  • Aseptic techniques, subculturing and purification of bacterial cultures
  • Examination of stained bacteria in the light microscope
  • How to recognise the colony morphology of bacterial strains
  • Use of spectrophotometers to follow growth of cultures in liquid media
  • Determination of viable counts of bacterial cultures
  • Preparation of solutions and growth media and maintenance of pure cultures
  • Identification of bacterial strains (medical and non-medical) using laboratory tests, commercial biochemical test kits, and 16S rDNA sequencing
  • Design of experiments, including necessary controls. These will include experiments in bacterial genetics that illustrate the principles of antibiotic resistance transfer and experiments on bacterial growth kinetics and physiology.
  • Extraction of total RNA, reverse transcription into cDNA for semi-quantitative analysis of gene expression (semi-quantitative PCR) in the model filamentous fungus Neurospora


The Microbiology RSM will enable students to acquire experience of a wide range of fundamental and contemporary microbiological techniques. Weeks 1 and 4 of the RSM will be carried out in conjunction with the Molecular Biology RSM unit. Weeks 2 and 3 will comprise only those students taking the Microbiology RSM.


Students will work in pairs


Week 1 students will extract DNA from a bacterial pathogen containing a mutation in the pilA gene and a wild-type strain. Genomic DNA will be digested with a series of restriction endonucleases and analysed by Southern-hybridisation to determine whether the bacterium harbours the desired mutation.


Week 2 Experiments designed to investigate the physiological conditions required to support the growth of the obligate halophilic bacterium Vibrio natrigens will be conducted. Halophilic bacteria will be enriched from food and environmental sources and their basic physiological properties defined using microscopy and staining techniques.


Week 3 Potential food-poisoning bacteria from milk will be enriched and purified to homogeneity.  The genus and species of these bacteria will be determined using a series of biochemical tests and rDNA sequence analysis.  The relative ability of these bacteria to resist killing by heat will be explored to determine the effectiveness of techniques such as pasteurisation and sterilisation.


Week 4 Neurospora grown in race tubes will be used to investigate circadian rhythms and to calculate growth rate of the organism. Light regulation of the vivid (vvd) gene in a series of Neurospora mutants will analysed by reverse transcriptase PCR with a view to exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying the expression of genes during light-dark cycles.


Teaching and learning methods

Practical sessions


Transferable skills and personal qualities


Category of outcome

Students will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

develop an understanding of the basis of several commonly used techniques in microbiology, including those used in bacterial identification.

Intellectual skills

design and interpret experiments.

Practical skills

acquire experience of current scientific methodologies appropriate to microbiology.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

work as a team.

problem solve.

present data.

time manage.


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Analysing graphical data produced during the practical
Group/team working
Students carry out the practical in pairs which requires team work
Project management
Students have to give some thought to the experiment - devise a protocol and decide what order to do each of the tasks
The write up will require reading the literature in order to constuct an introduction to the paper and to discuss their results in relation to published findings.
Written communication
The students have to write a practical assignment up in the form of a scientific paper

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written exam 20%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%


Assessment task


How and when feedback is provided

Weighting within unit (if relevant)


Complete a 4 weekly assessment sheets






One set of experiments written up in the format of a research publication



Microbiology Skills practical exam.

10 short answer questions




6 pages




2 hours



Feedback will be provided when annotated assessment sheets are returned.


By Grademark within 15 working days of submission


Annotated exam scripts will be returned to students.













Feedback methods

All work will be marked, annotated and handed back to students during the exam period.

Recommended reading


Relevant review and primary papers

For Information and advice on Link2Lists reading list software, see:

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment practical exam 2
Practical classes & workshops 74
Independent study hours
Independent study 24

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicola High Unit coordinator

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