UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Synthetic Biology

Course Code
Level M
Credits 30
Module Tutor
Professor John Ward
2 x 1,500 word assignment 30%
2 x 5,000 word design assignment 40%
2 x Presentation 30%


The objectives of this module will be to teach students the new areas that make up Synthetic Biology which include engineering biology, engineering principles, mathematical modeling, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemical engineering and chemistry.

In addition to academic learning the students will learn how to design specific elements in Synthetic Biology though group and individual work. They will gain experience of verbal, written and visual communication of the designs and topics.

Learning Outcomes

Students will acquire knowledge the areas that make up Synthetic Biology and understand how these are synthesized into this new subject area. They will learn how to link the information from different areas and use this to build and design new elements, pathways, cells and systems. They will learn how to work individually and in groups to design and present their outcomes.

The major elements of synthetic biology: design, construction and modeling of novel genetic circuits, modeling of metabolic pathways, flux analysis of metabolism, pathway engineering for biofuels, small molecules and bioactive compounds, software systems for synthetic and systems biology, BioBricks, iGEM, protein design, de novo pathway design and construction, photosynthetic organisms, viruses for templating and vaccines, bioethics and societal issues in Synthetic Biology, patenting, biochemical engineering and scale up of complex biological materials, using DNA as a construction material, molecular machines, designing peptides as construction material, whole genome construction, novel chassis and hosts.

Following completion of the course, students will have an understanding of:

Learning Hours


Lectures: 40
Student presentations: 6
Private reading: 100
Independent project work: 80
Required written work: 60


Introduction to the MRes in Synthetic Biology, Genetic circuits, oscillators and logic gates, synchronized oscillators, biological clocks, communication modules, bacterial photography, mammalian oscillators, pattern formation, genetic elements for new control systems, pathway engineering, biofuels, metabolic engineering, pathway engineering-Atimisenin; de novo design of pathways, engineering algae, modeling oscillations, networks and cell communication, gene design – BioBricks, gene assembly, gene design – synthetic genomes, new genetic polymers, XNA and CST for selection, orthogonality, refactoring translation, artificial cells – chells, vaccines, chassis, molecular machines, structured devices – DNA, Structured devices – protein, Patenting, Responsible Innovation and the Ethical, Legal and Social aspects of Synthetic Biology.