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NES8304 : Practical Techniques in Molecular Biology

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Martin Edwards
  • Lecturer: Dr James Stach
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To provide integrated training in:
a) the planning and conduct of laboratory investigations;
b) recording and interpreting experimental data;
c) conducting experiments in a safe and responsible manner;
This provides formative training, assessment and feedback, equipping students to carry out their research projects in module NES8012, as well as increasing their practical and data processing skills. The workshop concentrates specifically on molecular biology techniques, and introduces students to the rigour of scientific experiments and data interpretation.

This workshop takes students away from their usual short practical class format and provides extended and intensive training in modern molecular biological methods centred around tools and techniques for DNA and protein isolation and characterisation. The intensive training is followed by an individual research exercise whereby the students will apply their new skills in the cloning and expression of an E. coli gene. During the intensive training session members of academic staff and members of the technical support team will be available each day for general training, supervision and data interpretation, and to ensure safe working practices. Students will be given feedback on their practical skills and given specific pointers on how to improve. For the individual exercise, students will be expected to organise their own time-keeping, experiments, and records. Technicians and academic staff will be available to offer guidance, but students will be responsible for all of their own work.

Outline Of Syllabus

Genomic DNA extraction
DNA ligation and plasmid construction
Preparation of media
Transformation of E. coli
Colony screening
Plasmid extraction and sequencing
Protein expression and purification
Acrylamide gel electrophoresis

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Individual scientific poster (40%)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion136:0036:00In course assessment (60%) - Short answer assessment based on tasks completed in the practicals
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical184:0072:00Student led practical sessions.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities35:0015:00Reading, reviewing online materials to prepare for laboratory sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Module leader will be available to answer general student queries
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study123:0023:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time36:0018:00Complete online activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk21:002:00Introduction to module sections.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The practicals give students hands-on experience in fundamental laboratory techniques with appropriate supervision and guidance. Assessment of problem solving ability and practical skill assessment completed during the workshop will assess knowledge outcomes of methodology. Private study, both during and after the workshop, is necessary for students to absorb information gained from instruction and practical work, to deepen knowledge and understanding through reading of supporting references, and to prepare assignments on data analysis and comprehension. The individual component of the practical is intended to prepare students for working by themselves, as students often begin their research thesis projects without ever having been exposed to wholly independent practical exercises. The overall rationale is for students to practise the fundamental research skill around which their lecture content is based, and to ensure that all of the students have been adequately prepared for their research thesis projects.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prof skill assessmnt1M60in course assessment of skills developed during the laboratory sessions.
Poster1M40Students will prepare an individual scientific poster summarising the context and results of the group work performed in the final week.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Lab exercise1MDuring the first week of exercises students will receive detailed feedback on how to improve their practical results.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment of lab skills will indicate the level of technical ability the students have when joining the course and will allow them to reflect upon how these progress during the module. In addition the problem solving exercise tests student’s deep knowledge of molecular biology techniques and requires them to further research these before providing a solution.

The research exercise will be assessed via a group oral presentation. This will encourage the students to distil the background information and the results gained into a very concise format without losing the focus of the research. In addition, the practical skills developed in the lab this assessment will foster team work and interpersonal management skills whilst also challenging the students to perform a thorough search of the accompanying literature.

Formative assessment will be used throughout the laboratory session to guide students into making the correct choice on how to proceed. Furthermore through discussion students will be encouraged to support each other in finding the best route to not only achieving the desired result but to also understand the underlying mechanisms of the techniques.

Reading Lists