• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre and the Research School of Chemistry
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Chemistry, Engineering, Biology
  • Work Integrated Learning Placements
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Joseph Brock
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings
  • STEM Course

Since its much heralded inception in the early 2000’s, Synthetic Biology (SynBio) has gained significant attention and sizeable funding from public and private sectors around the world. From its emergence as a boldly stated intention to engineer biology, through to an increasingly mature and diverse discipline, the field continues to promise solutions to the global challenges we face today. It is becoming increasingly possible to engineer living cells in the same way as digital technology, complete with dedicated program languages and assembly tools to quickly and modularly combine biological “parts” for a tailored purpose. Proponents promise clean energy, sustainable biomanufacturing, food security and effective disease intervention that will transform our society, alter the way we interact with our environment, and allow us to sustainably provide goods and services across all economic sectors.


This course will form the basis of the ANU entry into the Australian SynBio Challenge, launched in 2020 to contribute to a vision of a strong, innovative and responsible Synthetic Biology sector in Australia. Students will be expected to work cohesively in a team, designing, building and testing a synthetic biology solution to a significant problem. Students will be expected to learn about Synthetic Biology and its potential applications in the process, with a particular emphasis on developing entrepreneurial skills and knowledge of the commercialisation process. The course will be framed by two main events, a “design review” and a “final showcase”, at the start and end of the semester, that aim to bring students, academics and industry together to realise visions for a sustainable future.


This is an Honours Pathway Course.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain fundamental principles of Synthetic Biology, including modularity and abstraction.
  2. Critically analyse published Synthetic Biology literature to identify strategies leading to the design of an innovative solution to a significant environmental, industrial or medical problem.
  3. Apply experimental techniques and relevant software to Synthetic Biology.
  4. Demonstrate ability to apply different writing styles for different purposes, such as how grant proposals differ from research reports and journal articles.
  5. Discuss and reflect on the ethical and social implications of their project.
  6. Demonstrate knowledge of commercialisation pathways between industry and university research.
  7. Collaborate in a multidisciplinary team to meet the design challenge.

Work Integrated Learning


Other Information

BIOL3188 is associated with a national science challenge that runs year-round (https://www.aussynbiochallenge.org/). Therefore, teams are recruited at the start of semester 1 each year and it is not possible to join the team mid-year. Entry into this course is merit-based and places are limited [Overall GPA and EoI are the main criteria for student selection, but so are factors such as having gender balance and diversity of the team]. Participants will be chosen based on courses undertaken to ensure a multidisciplinary team and on marks in relevant courses. Please email joseph.brock@anu.edu.au by the start of Semester 1 each year to register your interest. Selection outcomes will be made available to students by first week March each year.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Grant proposal (80) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Skill development assignment (20) [LO 1,2,3,7]
  3. Contribution to Design Review and Final Showcase (CRS) (hurdle) (0) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Approximately 65 hours of team meetings, event preparation and self directed study, including developing skills in using SynBio software tools.
  • 65 hours of computational design and lab based building of the Synthetic Biology device.

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 72 units of relevant courses (BIOL, CHEM, ENGN) and obtain a permission code from the course convenor. Incompatible with BIOL6188.

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre or Research School of Chemistry to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4440
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6360
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8305 22 Jul 2024 29 Jul 2024 31 Aug 2024 25 Oct 2024 In Person N/A

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