BSc Medical Physiology / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Introduction to Laboratory Science

Unit code BIOL10401
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

The unit consists of five practical sessions introducing the fundamental experimental approaches in bioscience and biomedical research. Students will gain experience in working with a diverse array of experimental organisms ranging from microbes to plants to humans; and gain expertise in working with DNA, proteins and other biomolecules. In addition, students are required to engage fully with the online data-handling exercises, as the mathematical concepts introduced there are essential for practical science.

 

Aims

To introduce students to the basic skills and techniques that underpin laboratory investigation; to build the expertise and knowledge that will be required by students to undertake both the Introduction to Experimental Biology unit offered in the second semester, and the practical modules offered at level 2.

Learning outcomes

By the end of their first year students are expected to: be competent in a range of practical techniques and skills appropriate to the biosciences; conduct experiments taking into consideration health and safety requirements; make detailed experimental observations, and record, analyse and evaluate experimental and other scientific data; analyse experimental data using appropriate statistical methods; be able to modify or design related experiments; communicate experimental work by means of written, or computer-assisted, reports and assignments; use information technology in the research, analysis and presentation of scientific data; relate knowledge acquired in the laboratory to theoretical material covered in the lecture units; work both independently and as part of a team; be able to make critical evaluation of both their own work and that of their peers; and reflect upon their skills development during their first year.

Syllabus

All students will take the same five practicals in the teaching laboratories in Stopford.

The sessions will include:

•       Practical 1: Blood and saliva: characterising biomolecules from the body

•       Practical 2: Algae for Biofuel

•       Practical 3: Haematology, Pulses and Pressure

•       Practical 4: DNA, Genes and Gene Expression

•       Practical 5: Microbial Detectives

Post-laboratory analysis,extension activities and practice assessment questions will be delivered via Blackboard after the sessions; this will enable students to consider their data (or class data where appropriate)and to reflect on their skills and knowledge acquisition.

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Knowledge and understanding

  • Relate knowledge acquired in the laboratory to theoretical material covered in the lecture units

Intellectual skills

•       Analyse experimental data using appropriate statistical methods

•       Be able to modify or design related experiments

Practical skills

•       Be competent in a range of practical techniques and skills appropriate to the biosciences

•       Conduct experiments taking into consideration health and safety requirements

•       Make detailed experimental observations, and record, analyse and evaluate experimental and other scientific data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•       Communicate experimental work by means of written, or computer-assisted, reports and assignments

•       Use information technology in the research, analysis and presentation of scientific data

•       Work both independently and as part of a team and reflect upon their skills development during their first year

Employability skills

Analytical skills
All data generated in the practical sessions need to be analysed using mathematical/statistical methods and presented in appropriate ways.
Group/team working
All practicals require students to work either in a pair or in larger groups (4-6) to share equipment; coordinate experimental techniques; contribute to, and share, class data to improve the validity of the experiments.
Problem solving
The whole point of the practicals is to enable students to tackle research problems in future. The formal written assessment asks the students to design and improve experiments, use mathematical concepts and make sense of data to solve biological problems. They practise these skills in the practical classes.
Research
The students are required to answer research questions by perfecting and performing experimental techniques, gathering data and reaching justifiable conclusions.
Written communication
Students need to present data and answer questions in written format in order to show their understanding of the science. This is practised informally during the practical classes, and is formally assessed in written end of unit examinations.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 1%
Written exam 80%
Set exercise 20%

Written exam

1.5 hour examination consisting of short-answer and data-analysis questions in January (80%)

Set exercise - Online coursework and attendance

Students will be assessed by their satisfactory completion of experimental work during the laboratory sessions plus completion of online pre-practical preparation exercises) (10%), and weekly data-handling online exercises (10%).

NB. Attendance at practical sessions is compulsory and absences will be recorded as part of the general work and attendance system. The attendance mark (10%) will be awarded only if attendance and completion of practicals is judged to be ‘satisfactory’ (defined as attending and completing at least 80% of the practicals and by completing pre-practical exercises for each session); otherwise attendance is judged to be ‘unsatisfactory’ and will be awarded a mark of 0.Failure to complete the pre-practical exercises prior to attending the practical will be recorded as an absence for the practical (even if the practical session is attended). Further penalties for absences are detailed in the practical manual. Missing more than 2 practicals for whatever reason may trigger a meeting with the Unit Coordinator &/or the Senior Advisor. If more than 2 sessions are missed, further mark deductions of 10 % per practical missed may be imposed for absences. A mark of at least 40% is required to pass this unit. Failure of this unit will result in a loss of compensation for other failed first year examinations.

Feedback methods

During the practical sessions, you will be able get immediate feedback on your technical performance by talking to staff, demonstrators and your peers. The questions or exercises in the practical manual are there to test your understanding and you should get feedback on your answers from staff or demonstrators before you leave each laboratory session. After each practical, you will be required to complete the post-lab work on Blackboard. This work is designed to test your understanding of concepts, test your problem-solving and analytical skills, complete the learning outcomes for the practical and give you an opportunity to practise answering short answer questions. There are hints available and a link to the discussion forums if you get stuck. Model answers are also available. You will get feedback on your overall performance for the unit in the form of the final mark released in Semester 2. Additional practice problems/questions [including some with model answers or feedback] will be made available during the semester and should support your preparation for the written examination.

Drop-in sessions for help with data-handling and post-lab work will be available in the weeks following each practical session.

Recommended reading

Practical Skills in Biomolecular Sciences; Reed et al., Pearson

Available as an ebook (http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=463009)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Practical classes & workshops 31
Seminars 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 65.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ruth Grady Unit coordinator

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