Module Catalogue

MMB8026 : Experimental design for in vivo research

  • Offered for Year: 2012/13
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Melissa Bateson
  • Lecturer: Professor Candy Rowe
  • Owning School: FMS Graduate School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The module aims are to:

1. provide an overview of key principles of good experimental design for in vivo research

2. introduce the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) and discuss the relationship between their implementation and good experimental design

3. introduce several common designs and discuss their pros and cons

4. highlight recent advances in our understanding of the sources of variation between animals that inform the design of better experiments

5. train students to recognise examples of poor experimental design

6. train students to design sound in vivo experiments of their own

Original Summary:

There are no prerequisites for the module. This is a module in experimental design targeted at bio-scientists designing studies involving the use of live animals or those who may wish to do so in the future. The module introduces the scientific and animal welfare benefits of good experimental design. The basic principles of good experimental design are taught, alongside discussion of the pros and cons of different designs. The module emphasises practical problem solving; exercises are included to develop students’ abilities to recognise flaws in existing experimental designs, and to develop their skills and confidence in designing their own experiments. Assessment is via an in-course written assignment for which students are required to produce a detailed design for a specific experiment.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will consider the following topics:

1. Why is experimental design important in the life sciences?
o       Scientific and ethical issues – relevance to 3Rs

2. Relationship between experimental design and statistics
o       Importance of considering statistical analysis at the design stage – good design leads to simple statistics
o       Communicating with a statistician

3. First steps to a good experimental design:
o       Defining your research question
o       Deciding on your hypothesis
o       Identifying specific predictions that follow from it

4. The importance of pilot studies

5. Goals of a good design:
o       Elimination of random variation and confounding factors
      Introduction to some common sources of noise and confounds
      Reliability of measurements: inter- and intra-observer reliability
      Importance of blinding
o       Importance of replication
      Understanding pseudo-replication
      Getting the sample size right: introduction to power calculations

6. Different types of experimental design: their pros and cons
o       The importance of controls
o       Randomised and factorial designs
o       Blocking and within subject designs
o       Split-plot designs

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Preparation and Sumission of 2000 word Essay
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture91:009:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical40:453:00Practicals in Small Groups
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity16:006:00Additional Reading and Reflective Learning
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00Preparation of Notes from Lectures and Reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Three types of lectures will be employed in this course:

1. Formal lectures will be used to impart key knowledge

2. Short case studies will be used to provide real-life examples of good and bad practice in experimental design

3. Guest lectures by invited speakers from industry will be used to provide industrial context and further case studies

Supervised practical exercises in experimental design will provide students with opportunities to implement the material taught. Students will practise critiquing experimental designs provided to them and also designing their own experiments.

Seminars will provide an opportunity for group discussion of lecture material and practical work.

Private study will provide students with the opportunity to read and perform independent research relevant to completing their coursework.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M1002000 word written report
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The coursework will involve the student producing a 2000-word written report. In this report they will be required to produce, describe and defend a design for an in vivo experiment to answer a specified research question. The research question will either be chosen by the student from a list of alternatives provided by the module leader, or it can be the student’s own choice (subject to approval by the module leader). Students will be provided with some guidance regarding the topics that they are expected to cover in the report.

The single assessment requires students to utilise their knowledge and skills acquired during the module to produce a detailed experimental design and answer a specific research question in the form of a written report. This exercise will assess the students’ understanding of the basic principles of good experimental design, their ability to translate these into an actual design for a specific experiment. It will also assess their ability to communicate their design and the rationale for it in a written format. The assignment has been specifically designed to mimic the type of document that researchers are required to produce when seeking ethical approval for an in vivo experiment.

Reading Lists