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

A.Y. 2021/2022
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
Based on the Rectoral Decrees in force, all the didactic activities (theoretical and practical lessons and exams) will be delivered in presence. The access to the lesson rooms is regulated to allow for safe people distancing. In-person lectures and exams will be accessible only to students holding a Covid-19 certificate (green pass) and wearing a face mask. Seats in classrooms and libraries must be reserved through the LezioniUnimi app or the Timetable Portal. Here complete information: https://www.unimi.it/en/study/bachelor-and-master-study/following-your-…
The lessons will be streamed through Microsoft Teams platform for students with underlying health conditions or students who are subjected to travel restrictions due to the epidemiological emergency or other impediments. In the Ariel/Moodle website of the course you will find instructions to access the Microsoft Team class. Specific online activities will be offered as an alternative to practical classes and technical visits.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate to in-presence activities, since streamed ones will have minimum interactivity and basic technical quality. Participating to in-presence lessons allows to interact with other students and the teachers, getting the best out of the Master Degree experience.
Since October 2021, exams will be mandatorily in-presence, with the only exception of i) Covid-19 positive or quarantined students, ii) Students with underlying health concerns, as laid down by law, iii) Students residing in countries with health restrictions or cross-border travel restrictions. To obtain an exemption student must compile a waiver request (here the form: https://www.unimi.it/sites/default/files/2021-08/Declaration%20in%20lie…) and send it by email to the teacher and the head of studies.
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 didactic approach used in 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 Moodle during the course. Slides of the seminars held by invited expert will be also provided to students. Additional material can include scientific papers, example of project proposal and web links.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Course final examination foresees a written and an oral part. Moreover, the performance of the student during the classroom exercises (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. To sum up, the final score will take into account: classroom exercises (20%), project proposal (50%) and its discussion (30%).
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