BSc Medical Physiology with a Modern Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to Experimental Biology - Human Biology

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL10422
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit consists of 11 practical sessions introducing the fundamental experimental approaches in bioscience and biomedical research appropriate to their specialist degree programme. Students will gain experience in taking physiological measurements (e.g. blood pressure and ECG) in human volunteers and expertise in working with bacteria and DNA. Practical sessions will highlight key physiological principles and techniques, as well as reinforcing the theory covered in lecture units. A data-handling module will run alongside the practicals, introducing some important techniques for analysing scientific data. The unit also includes an introduction to climate change and actions taken in the teaching laboratories to be more sustainable. This is followed by a collective action to manage plastics more sustainably in our lives – data are collated and analysed with reference to the statistical concepts learned during the unit.


To equip students with the basic laboratory skills and data-handling skills necessary to study the Life Sciences, with a focus on Human Biology. This unit will provide the foundation for more advanced level 2 laboratory skills units.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, students will be proficient in several basic laboratory techniques appropriate to their specialist degree programme. 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 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.


Students will undertake an online data handling unit (consisting of 10 weekly tutorials and associated assessments) and 10 practical sessions of between 90 mins and 3 hours.Human Biology strand:• Blood pressure and pulses• Haematology• Drug concentration-response in the guinea-pig ileum (an online simulation experiment) and radioligand binding experiments• Electrocardiography and electromyography• Neuroanatomy• Lung mechanics.Molecular Biology for Human Biologists:• Genotyping by PCR,• Study of gene transfer between bacteria (conjugation) and antibiotic resistanceFor each practical, the students will further develop data-handling, data interpretation and statistical analysis skills by completing an online pre-lab activity and a post-lab practice problem based on the practical. In addition, students will attend a seminar which introduces the concept of environmental sustainability. They will be encouraged to collect their own data related to recycling, and will be expected to attend a follow-up workshop to help them to analyse this data.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Analytical skills are developed during practical sessions and through completing assessments (data handling module, pre-lab tests, examination and scientific lab report). Students spend time in the lab or by going through post lab problems analysing their data or model data.
Group/team working
Students work as part of a team (often a pair) during practical sessions and they have to organise their time efficiently. They will work together in small groups to produce a scientific poster or lab report summarising one of their practical experiments.
Problem solving
Problem solving skills are developed during practical sessions and through completing assessments (examination and scientific lab report). Students are expected to go through questions in the practical manual, and may have to overcome technical problems during practical sessions. Academic staff and graduate teaching assistants (demonstrators) are available to help with solving problems in the lab. Students are also encouraged to solve post-lab practice problems in preparation for the end of unit examination
For the scientific lab report, students need to understand the content of some scientific papers provided and to search for others in order to write the introduction.
Written communication
Producing a scientific lab report requires students to present a brief background to the practical, to accurately and concisely describe the methods used and the results obtained and to draw conclusions from their data. This exercise also requires students to search for scientific papers and to reference these correctly. They must conform to the required format for each section.
Students are required (in their groups) to write a scientific lab report. This will require students to first write their report individually, and then to compare their reports with the other members of the group. The group will reflect on the good and bad aspects of each report and use this reflection to write the group report.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written exam 50%
Students will be assessed according to the following:• successful completion of data handling skills online course (10%)• a group lab report describing one practical (20%)• An eLearning assignment based on writing a lab report (10%)• a 90 min examination consisting of two problems (50%) (similar to the post-lab practice problems)• satisfactory class participation (10%) - for each practical, satisfactory participation will be defined by completion of the pre-lab activity, attendance AND satisfactory completion of the practical work. Failure to complete the pre-lab activity prior to attending the practical will be recorded as an absence for the practical (even if the practical session is attended).NB: Attendance at practical sessions is compulsory and absences will be recorded as part of the general work and attendance system. The 10% will be awarded only if students satisfactorily participate in at least 9 out of 11 of the classes/pre-lab activities. Otherwise, students will get a mark of 0 and further penalties for absences will be applied (see manual).Criteria to pass the unit:• A mark of at least 40% is required to pass this unit. Failure of this unit will result in a resit written examination.• A minimum of 50% attendance is required to pass this unit. Failure to do so will result in having to attend a lab remediation session.

Feedback methods

For each data handling module, students have practice questions for which they gain feedback. They need to score at least 70% in the practice questions to be able to take the final assessment for each module.For the online pre-lab activities and eLearning assignment, the feedback is given in the form of a mark and students have two further attempts to improve their marks based on the feedback.During the practical sessions there will be many opportunities for students to get feedback from staff or demonstrators on technical performance and conceptual understanding of the practical tested through the questions and exercises posed in the practical manual.This feedback, along with the numerous post-lab practice problems and their model answers (including a mock paper), a Biomaths clinic, and the data-handling skills modules should support the preparation for the written examination. For the scientific report, support will be provided through several resources and an online assignment as well as 1 or 2 tutorials. Feedback will be provided by the academic advisor.Students will get feedback on their overall performance in the form of the final mark for the unit.

Recommended reading

• Practical Skills in Biomolecular Sciences; Reed et al., Pearson. Available as an ebook (• Some starter references are given on Blackboard for the experimental report

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Practical classes & workshops 21
Independent study hours
Independent study 77.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tristan Pocock Unit coordinator

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