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MSci Cell Biology / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Cell Biology RSM

Unit code BIOL20322
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

This Research Skills Module is designed to develop your experimental design, report writing and practical skills. You will be introduced to cell biology research techniques in a laboratory based project. You will use techniques such as SDS-PAGE, immunoblotting, LacZ reporter gene assays, immunofluorescence microscopy, cell culture and transient transfection.

 

Pre/co-requisites

Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
The Dynamic Cell BIOL21121 Co-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL20322 Co-requisite is BIOL21121

This unit is compulsory for all Cell Biology Honours students and may be selected by Biology, Biochemistry, Medical Biochemistry or Biomedical Sciences students.

Aims

•    To introduce students to the theory and practice of a selection of commonly-used cell biological research techniques

•    To provide training in experimental design, execution and critical interpretation of data

•    To enhance knowledge of cellular structure and function

•    To develop practical skills and team working ability

Learning outcomes

Students will develop a wide range of experimental skills, including: SDS-PAGE; immuoblotting; LacZ reporter gene assays; cell transfection; immunofluorescence labelling; fluorescence microscopy and image acquisition. They will develop skills in careful experimental manipulation, design, and organisation. They will gain confidence in recording and interpreting results, and in critical evaluation. Students will work independently and in small groups, aiding development of individual practical skills and team-working abilities. They will be expected to compare their results with published data and to question conclusions or account for discrepancies. Scope for the design of novel experiments will be provided. Students will be expected to learn detailed concepts related to central aspects of cell biology, and to be able to identify cellular structures.

Syllabus

Protein in the endoplasmic reticulum: In this component, students will undertake a series of experiments designed to examine protein biogenesis at the endoplasmic reticulum and the unfolded protein response (UPR). Yeast will be used as a model system to investigate the how the UPR functions in response to N-glycosylation inhibitors in wild-type and mutant strains. Experimental techniques will include SDS-PAGE, immunoblotting, LacZ reporter assays, data analysis and quantification.

Protein localisation using green fluorescent protein chimeras: Students will be provided with cDNA constructs encoding a variety of proteins that have been tagged with green fluorescent protein, and will express these by transient transfection of tissue culture cells. The aim will be to determine the localisation of the chimeric molecule with reference to antibodies to a range of subcellular organelles and cytoskeletal structures. Students will design their own experiment to provide further evidence of localisation, for example by disrupting the structure by drug treatment. Techniques include transient transfection, and the use of antibodies and green fluorescent protein in fluorescence microscopy.

Tyrosine kinase signalling: Two intracellular tyrosine kinases, Src and FAK, will studied. The aim will be to determine how FAK and Src interact to form a signalling complex. The students will analyse part of this well-characterised signalling pathway using phospho-specific antibodies and expression of mutated forms of each kinase. Both immunoblotting and immunofluorescence will be used to follow kinase activation. They will also be given key references to help them interpret their data.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
These are core skills developed throughout the practical. Students will learn to analyse several different types of data, and are encouraged to think critically about their own results. Performing control experiments, and understanding why they are important for data analysis, is a key component of the practical.
Oral communication
Students are encouraged to answer questions during practicals, and to contribute to the final wrap-up sessions where they can describe their experimental results.
Problem solving
Students will have problems to solve throughout the practical, and will gain hands-on experience when they carry out their own individual experiments
Research
Students learn research skills, and apply them to specific problems. They have the opportunity to design and carry out their own experiment. They are expected to read research papers to facilitate their interpretation of data and to plan their own experiment.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 17.5%
Written assignment (inc essay) 77.5%
Set exercise 5%

Set exercise 1 - Online coursework assessment. Completion of an eLearning exercise following week 1 of the practical (5% of marks).

Written assignments (77.5% in total).

Written assignment 1. Preparation of a figure with legend (7.5% of marks). This will include a bar graph and a blot annotation from the data obtained in week 1. Individual feedback will be given before submission of the assessments for weeks 2-4.

Formative assessment of the students’ ability to formulate a hypothesis, and design an experiment that will test the hypothesis, will be achieved via completion of worksheets in weeks 2 and 3. Individual feedback on these will be given during week 2 and 3 respectively.

Written assignment 2. Description of the design, methodology and results of the experiment completed in week 3, with one figure of microscopy data (20% of marks). Feedback on this will be provided via Grademark before the submission of the week 4 write-up.

Written assignment 3. Completion of a 5-page write-up (excluding references and title page) based on the experiments completed in week 4 (50% of marks).

Written exam. A 1 hour written assessment, completed under exam conditions, will test students’ ability to design and plan experiments, and identify cellular structures (17.5% of marks). It will run after the RSM period.

RSM Attendance guidelines. Students are expected to attend all scheduled RSM sessions on time (N.B. Health and safety information will be delivered at the start of practical sessions, and students who are not present at the start may be asked to leave the lab). Students who arrive late will be marked as absent for that session. Failure to attend a session (an unauthorised absence) will result in a 10% (i.e. 10 mark) penalty being applied to the overall RSM mark (i.e. a student obtaining a mark of 65% overall will instead receive a mark of 55%). Furthermore, any students who miss a practical session will not receive a mark for any associated post-lab assessment (N.B. this mark will be removed before calculating the average post-lab mark to avoid a student being penalised twice). Further absences will result in further penalties (i.e. 2 absences = a penalty of 20% (as described above)).

 

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided informally by staff and demonstrators throughout the practical. Feedback on several formative assessments will be given individually during RSM sessions. Group discussions at several points during the RSM will provide a forum for discussing experiments and results obtained. Detailed feedback on each summative assessment will be given via Grademark, before the next assessment is due.

 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 72
Independent study hours
Independent study 28

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Allan Unit coordinator

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