Microbiology and Biotechnology of Extremophiles: case studies to develop soft skills in science

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Microorganism adapted to extreme environments are recognized as an important and almost untapped resource of high interest for the biotechnology sector and the study of their microbiology and ecology can open new routes for their potential exploitation. Soft-skills are nowadays recognized as important capacities complementing the technical expertise of scientists and they are strongly required by the professional world including academia and the biotech industry. The goals of this course are i) to provide knowledge on the biotechnological potential of extremophile microorganisms and ii) to familiarize the with the so-called 'soft skills' by analyzing different case studies from the scientific literature about the extremophile biotechnological exploitation and by interacting with professionals in the biotech and scientific dissemination fields and by hands-on exercises.
Expected learning outcomes
The students will acquire knowledge on the microbiology, ecology and potential biotechnological application of extremophiles. During the course, the students will also improve an array of key capacities for the development and diffusion of biotechnological and bio-based industrial approaches. The course will enhance student communication and public speaking skills besides team-work capacity and critical scientific literature reading. The students will also acquire basic principles about writing a scientific project proposal focused in particular on environmental microbial biotechnology applied to circular economy and bioeconomy.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
No information are available about the trend of the sanitary emergency due to the covid-19 pandemic. Specific information will be described here before the beginning of the semester, however the contingency teaching planning implemented during the first semester of the academic year 2020-2021 in indicated below.

Communication and didactic material
Teacher will use the Moodle platform (as substitute of the classic 'Ariel' portal) as notice board and to share didactic material with the students. The link to access Moodle for this course is the following: http://labonline.ctu.unimi.it/course/view.php?id=139
Lectures and seminars will be held online using the Microsoft Teams platform (Teams'code will be provided on Moodle in late September). In few cases, 1-2 lesson at maximum, audio PowerPoint will be provided. Three in-person lectures (1 in September, 1 in November, 1 in January) will be held at the University according to all safety rules related to the sanitary emergency. For the students that will not have the possibility to join the in-person lectures, specific moments will be dedicated to involve them in the same activities through Microsoft Teams.
The written part of the exam consists in the preparation of a project proposal that will be consigned to the teacher by Moodle platform. The oral part of the exam will be held online using Microsoft Teams. The performance of students and their interaction capacities during classroom exercises (for example Journal Club) will be also evaluated. These activities will be conducted online due to the covid-19 emergency.
Course syllabus
- Course roadmap, teaching methods. Teacher and students' introduction to the class.
- The biotechnological potential of extremophiles
- How to conduct a bibliographic research. Tips and suggestions to create an effective presentation. Creation of the working teams. Distribution of scientific articles for the Journal Club.
- Journal Club 1
- Journal Club 2
- Journal Club 3
- Journal Club 4
- How to write a scientific project - part I
- How to write a scientific project - part II
- Classroom activity on scientific project writing (examples and working group)
- Scientific Communication and Social Media
- An introduction to Open Science
- An outlook on Responsible Research and Innovation
- Technology Transfer & Startup
- Soft skills: what companies are looking for
Prerequisites for admission
This course requires general knowledge on environmental microbiology and biotechnology. Part of the course's program will be performed as classroom exercise (e.g. Journal Club, lecture on scientific project writing) on topics related to environmental microbiology and biotechnology, circular economy, bioeconomy.
Teaching methods
The course includes lectures (3 CFU) and classroom exercise (1 CFU). Given the specificities of this course and the importance of interplays between teacher, experts and students, the course attendance is considered compulsory. Exceptions must be motivated and authorized by the lecturer.
Teaching Resources
Powerpoint presentation of each lecture will be uploaded on Ariel during the course. Slides of the seminars held by invited expert will be also provided to students. Additional material can include scientific papers and example of project proposal.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Course final examination foresees a written and an oral part. Moreover, the performance of the student during the classroom exercise (e.g. Journal Club) will also contribute to his/her final evaluation.
The written examination will consist in the preparation of a project proposal on topics such as environmental microbiology and biotechnology in the frame of bioeconomy. The student will prepare a proposal autonomously and he/she will consign the project proposal to the professor meeting the established deadline. After the project revision, the professor will meet the student for an interview on the proposed project.
AGR/16 - AGRICULTURAL MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 4
Practicals: 16 hours
Lessons: 24 hours
Professor: Mapelli Francesca
every day by appointment
DeFENS, via Mangiagalli 25, Milano - room 3023