Living systems are natural biological processes (i.e. mediated by living organisms), which are used by humans for multiple purposes: to produce feed for animals, food for humans, feedstock (e.g. timber, pulp, biomaterials) and energy, or to treat organic material in waste flows. Supply and management of these living systems is strongly connected with significant social, economic and environmental impacts. The understanding of such systems and their components from an engineering perspective is pivotal in order to maintain, improve or even replace them based on their use and performance. With focus on major engineering aspects and using specific real life examples, the course provides an overview of living systems’ characteristics and uses. The overall aim of the course is to outline the state of the art of living systems technology and current and future challenges for using them to improve human life.
- Explain key living system definitions.
- Use terminology in relation to specific living systems.
- Explain how living systems can be utilized by humans.
- Describe the characteristics of different living systems, including information flows, energy and matter.
- Analyse environmental, technological and economic implications related to specific living systems.
- Recommend future uses of existing living systems that can improve human lives.
- Make informed decisions about the use and design of peer feedback.
- Apply communication, cooperative and teamwork skills such as planning, management, leadership and peer support.
Living systems are a vast variety of natural processes involving organisms that humans further develop and enhance in order to produce feed, food, medicines, energy, different materials and improve the quality of life. Specifically, living systems are open self-organizing life forms that interact with their environment and are maintained by flows of information, energy and matter. The understanding of the general principles of how living systems work is crucial in order to be able to evaluate the productivity, the environmental and economic impact, and the possibilities to improve or even replace a living system with other more efficient processes. The course provides students with an essential understanding of the role of living systems in society, the most important scientific aspects related to these, and how living systems can be addressed from an engineering perspective. With focus on engineering aspects, the course addresses all key phases of a living system: cell, organ, organism, group, organization, community, society, and supranational system. The course uses peer learning through different existing living systems to provide the students with the essential understanding of the role and operation of living systems in the society e.g. industrial microorganisms, fermentation systems, downstream processing, biomass, bioenergy, wastewater treatment, aquaculture production etc. Finally, an overview of living systems definitions, availability, competing uses (e.g. competition between resources, process efficiency, emerging technologies, etc.) is provided.
The course combines:
• Project-based learning.
• Peer learning.
• Short lectures.
• A scientific report about of the state-of-the-art of a living system (13-15 pages in groups of 3-4 people).
• Two peer reviews of two other groups’ reports (1.5-2 pages each).
• Final presentation/examination and peer discussion of the report (10-15 minutes per group).