Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Affordable and clean energy Life on land

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The overall aim of the course is to provide theoretical and design skills concerning the iterative cycle (design-build-test-learn) and molecular engineering in plant synthetic biology. A combination of lectures and project-based research will be used to study the metabolic processes and factors involved in plant primary productivity and to develop strategies to manipulate metabolic pathways aimed at satisfying the increasing global demand for food and high-value products.

Course contents

Current issues in synthetic biology and biotechnology applied to photosynthetic organisms will be addressed during the course. In particular, the course will focus on the different strategies aimed at improving the photosynthetic efficiency by modifying cellular processes being functional in the context of agriculture and biomass/food production. In addition, metabolic engineering technologies will be presented, discussed, and explored in depth. Finally, the course will include seminars by course faculty and students on topics under study based on recent scientific articles. Lectures by invited experts are also planned. At the end of each seminar there will be space for student questions and general discussion on the topic.


The textbooks and bibliography (research/review articles) will be recommended during the course. This is the list of main research articles that will be covered during the course: (1) Schwander et al., 2016 Science 354: 6314; (2) Bracher et al., 2017 Annual Review Plant Biology 68: 29-60; (3) Long et al., 2018 Nature Communications 9: 3570; (4) Simkin et al., 2019 Journal of Experimental Botany 70: 1119-1140; (5) South et al., 2019 Science 363: 6422; (6) Chen et al., 2021 Current Opinion in Plant Biology 60: 102013; (7) Kselikova et al., 2022 Biotechnology Advances 58: 107885.

Teaching methods

Frontal teaching (seminar and lectures) and preparation and exposition of seminars by course students.

Assessment methods

The examination will consider the seminar taken by the student (during the course conduct) and an oral interview based on questions related to the course content (after completion of the course).

Teaching tools

The course will be held in classrooms with PC projection. All lectures and seminars will be carried out through power point presentations. The files of the power point presentations and the teaching materials supporting lectures and seminars (articles, reviews, bibliography, and websites) will be made available to the students at the end of the course.

Office hours

See the website of Mirko Zaffagnini

See the website of Francesca Sparla