Microbial Life

Course Information

These unit outlines are a guide only. They are provided for the information of prospective students. Although every effort is made to ensure the most up to date information is provided, timetables often change each semester due to the availability of rooms and resources. Content (including lecture/practical topics, assessment and textbooks) is also regularly reviewed to ensure relevance and effective learning.

Unit of Study Overview

Microorganisms are by far the most ubiquitous organisms on the planet, and underpin healthy ecosystems through nutrient recycling and biodegradation, as well as providing many aspects of plant and animal nutrition. They are used in many industrial processes such as producing enzymes, vitamins and antibiotics, and in the manufacture of some foods and beverages. Microorganisms can also cause problems however, such as human, animal and plant diseases, poisoning, pollution and spoilage. The small size of most microorganisms means special techniques are required to view, measure, classify and identify them.

In this unit of study, the diversity of microbial life, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa, and their importance to humans, are introduced. The unit is designed for students wishing to major in microbiology as well as those requiring microbial skills while specializing in related fields, such as molecular biology. Theoretical aspects of microbiology are supplemented with laboratory classes that teach the safe handling and viewing of microorganisms, and draw on research in microbiology laboratories.

Students are very strongly recommended to complete MICR (2021 or 2921 or 2024) before enrolling in MICR2022 in Semester 2. For progression on to Senior Microbiology units, students must also complete MBLG (1001 or 1901) or PLNT (2001 or 2901).

Career opportunities

MICR2021/2921 provides a good basis for careers in clinical, environmental or industrial microbiology. Graduates have found work in diagnostic and research laboratories based in hospitals, universities, government organizations such as the CSIRO and Sydney Water, and private industries including biotechnology companies and industries involved in the production of food, crops and pharmaceuticals. Employment can also be found in sectors related to these industries, such as sales, technical support, marketing, scientific journalism and communication, and education.

Course Coordinator Contact Details

A/Prof Andrew Holmes

Room: 563

Telephone: 9351 2530



MICR2021: 6cp of Junior Biology and (6cp of MBLG (1001 or 1901 or 2901) or PLNT (2001 or 2901)) and 6cp of Junior Chemistry

MICR2921: 6cp of Junior Biology and (6 cp of MBLG (1001 or 1901 or 2901) or PLNT (2001 or 2901)) and 6 cp of Junior Chemistry. Distinction grade required in at least one of Junior Biology or MBLG (1001 or 1901) or PLNT (2001 or 2901).


1st lecture: Monday 12:00pm Carslaw Lecture Theatre 175
2nd lecture: Thursday 12:00pm Carslaw Lecture Theatre 175

Practical: Tuesday or Wednesday 14:00pm – 17:00pm Biochem/Microbiol Lab 300

Tutorials: 6 tutorials Tuesday 12:00pm, Quadrangle Building, Oriental Room S204

Advanced seminars: 5 seminars Tuesday 12:00pm Room 471, G08


Willey et al. Prescott's Microbiology. 9th edition. WCB/McGraw-Hill. 2013

Lecture Outlines

- Introduction – history of microbiology, methods of handling microbes, prokaryote structure
- Microbial diversity – evolution+phylogeny, eubacteria, archaebacteria, viruses, eukaryotes (algae, fungi, protists)
- Genetics and genomics – microbial genetics, exchange and recombination, genomics
- Living microbial systems – microbial nutrition, growth, metabolism, physiology, regulation, communication
- Microbial interactions – microbe/microbe, microbe/plant, microbe/animal, microbe/human

Advanced Seminar Topics (MICR2921 only)

Practical Course

Experiments include: safe handling of microbes, microscopy, staining techniques, aseptic technique, use of microbiological media, sterilization, identification of bacteria, analysis of microbial growth, exploration of microbial diversity


60% theory, 40% practical
Tasks: One 2 hour theory exam, continuous assessment in practicals, 2 assignments, 2 quizzes, practical assessment exercises
For MICR2921: Additional half hour exam in week 12