Surrey University Stag


Module code: MMVM002

Module Overview

The Microbial Genetics module builds on the basic knowledge of pathogenic microorganisms provided in the first module of the MSc course, and introduces students to how the genetic material of a pathogen can be studied to understand the biology, transmission and pathogenicity mechanisms of bacterial and viral pathogens.

The students will also learn how the genetics of bacteria allows cells to respond to their surrounding environment, and how they have evolved. Furthermore, the students will learn about high-throughput methodologies and their downstream analysis methods, including comparative genomics techniques associated with next Generation Sequencing techniques.

Finally, the student’s critical thinking skills will be developed by getting them to evaluate and discuss the evidence on topical subjects in microbial genetics.

Module provider

School of Veterinary Medicine

Module Leader

VAN VLIET Arnoud (Vet Med)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: C522

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 114

Lecture Hours: 27

Tutorial Hours: 6

Practical/Performance Hours: 3

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

To have fulfilled entry requirements for the MSc Programme.

Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Genetic flow of information inside the cell (transcription and translation)

  • Organization, replication and exchange of genetic material in bacteria

  • Genome plasticity and virulence (transposons, mobile genetic elements)

  • Next Generation Sequencing and genome annotation

  • How bacteria respond to their environment

  • Overview of viral classification

  • Genomes of viruses and replication strategies (DNA, RNA viruses)

  • Molecular tools for detection and differentiation of pathogens

  • How to read and review papers critically (tutorial)

  • Interactive comparative genomics and bioinformatics session

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of microbial genetics and how it can be applied to study pathogen evolution and spread. Two styles of examination are used for this propose:

i) a critical evaluation of a microbial genetics study/subject to be presented on the final morning of the module (oral presentation, 30%)

ii) A series of short answer questions, covering key concepts of the course, and students must attempt to answer all questions (short answer exam questions, 90 min, 70%)


Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive verbal feedback during each lecture – this is achieved by the Lecturers asking questions and assessing student responses and input into discussions. The lecturer will then highlight areas of confusion or provide clarity where necessary. Individual one-to-one discussions are also possible in the classroom and data analysis sessions. Students also attend a 3-hour session entitled ‘How to review a scientific paper’. The format of these sessions are more informal allowing more student interaction and feedback opportunities.

Module aims

  • To provide a detailed overview of the genetic structure, replication, expression and diversity of bacteria and viruses.
  • To provide an overview of the methods employed to interrogate the genetics of micro-organisms.
  • To develop an understanding of recent advances made using high-throughput technologies, genetic manipulation and the application of bioinformatics and post-genomic developments, with reference to practical examples of virulence and diagnostic marker identification and genome evolution.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the structural and functional diversity of the genetic make-up of micro-organisms of medical and veterinary significance K
002 Understand and rationalise the concept of genome plasticity and evolution that contributes to emergence of altered and/or new pathogens K
003 Critically discuss the application of bioinformatics to analysing molecular data C
004 Appreciate and discuss how post-genomic studies can be applied to obtain a fuller understanding of the disease process KT
005 Describe the replication mechanisms of viruses with different genome structures K
006 Work independently demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time management T
007 Communicate effectively orally and in written work T
008 Participate in group discussions and on group assignments T
009 Critically asses scientific literature PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to build on the basic and applied aspects of microbiology taught in the first module of this MSc course, and introduce essential foundation knowledge on bacterial genetics and viral structure and replication strategies, which will be built on in the downstream modules of the course. This module uses research-active lecturers (internal and external to the University), who are leading experts in their chosen field and bring a pragmatic approach to studying host-microorganism interactions (taught classes). By keeping class sizes small and the lectures fairly informal, the students have a chance to fully engage in a dialogue with the lecturers. This module is primarily delivered as a lecture programme, complemented with interactive tutorials, practicals involving computer-based exercises handling data and class discussions.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • 27 hours lectures

  • 3 hours bioinformatics practical

  • 6 hours tutorials

  • 114 hours independent study

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: MMVM002

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Veterinary Microbiology MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.