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NES8398 : MRes Research Dissertation Project

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jon Marles-Wright
  • Lecturer: Dr Martin Edwards, Dr Patricia Lopez-Calcagno, Dr Fiona Cuskin, Dr Thomas Howard
  • 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
Semester 2 Credit Value: 40
Semester 3 Credit Value: 60
ECTS Credits: 60.0
European Credit Transfer System


The aim of this module is for the student to develop and complete an independent research project in an area directly related to their degree within the framework of the Biodesign cycle of ‘Design, Build, Test, Learn’. In semester one the students will focus on the ‘Design’ aspects with a design studio lead by the module staff; where, through a series of interactive research seminars and workshops, they develop a research project based on questions presented by the project supervisors within ‘UN Sustainable Development Goals’ research themes.

Through a series of theoretical and practical discussions, the students will develop skills in design-focused thinking, develop a research plan, and pitch the project idea to their peers and supervisors. In semesters two and three the students will focus on the ‘Build, test, and Learn’ aspects with an in-depth practical research project where the student can develop and demonstrate their research, analytical, interpretive and critical thinking skills. Some projects may be group projects where a team of students will work together on different aspects a single problem. In these cases, the students will work together to gather information and collate data, but each student must present an individual final thesis in the form of a research paper.

Outline Of Syllabus

Students will develop a research project in semester 1 within the scope of the research interests of the module contributors and potential project supervisors. The design studio will introduce the students to the concepts and practice of design thinking and key concepts in biodesign with seminars and interactive workshops lead by the module team. The workshops will focus on the following topics:
• Design-thinking as a process for problem solving
• Grand Challenges, UN sustainable development goals, and wicked problems
• The BioDesign Cycle: Design, Build, Test, Learn
• Project development
• Presentation and pitching skills
• Proposal structure, writing, and peer review
• Standards in synthetic biology and biodesign
• Data analysis, presentation, and sharing
• Project budgeting and organisation
• Implementation and analysis

The students will refine and deliver a 15-minute presentation/pitch of the project idea developed through the workshops and their independent study. They will also produce a written proposal outlining the aims, details, and budget of their project.

The students will develop their project proposal in semester 2 with a detailed GANTT chart and project timeline that will determine the timetable for their laboratory research. They will also prepare relevant health and safety documentation in collaboration with laboratory technicians. In semester 2 and 3 the student will undertake their individual research project under the supervision of the project supervisor, or supervisory team for group projects. This project will answer a specific research question and test the student’s ability to advance their knowledge and research skills in this subject.

The students will deliver a 15-minute presentation at the end of their research to an audience of students and academics to demonstrates their ability to explain their research and its conclusions to an audience and to answer questions based upon their research.

The students will produce a dissertation in the format of a research paper formatted as a manuscript for submission to an appropriate journal for their research.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Preparation of research proposal submission
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1170:00170:00Preparation of dissertation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Preparation of project presentation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical1620:00620:00PiP - Project work in research laboratories in semester 2/3
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading142:0042:00Directed biodesign/biotechnology related reading
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities82:0016:00Online exercises relating to biodesign workshops
Guided Independent StudySkills practice82:0016:00Online skills practice relating to module content
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities81:008:00Preparatory reading for workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops102:0020:00PiP biodesign workshops
Guided Independent StudyProject work150:0050:00Preparation of dissertation
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion81:008:00Structured online discussions via Canvas discussion boards
Guided Independent StudyProject work132:0032:00Development of Research proposal
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity82:0016:00Online group work to develop group biodesign ideas
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study187:0087:00Independent reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision241:0024:00PiP - Project supervision across semester 2/3
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk11:001:00Module introduction - familiarise your self with the course content
Guided Independent StudyOnline Discussion130:0030:00Participation in online discussion fora
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The students practise and develop their discipline related skills and knowledge, and their generic skills, through independent study of an individual research project. They gain the skills and knowledge delivered by the module by “learning through doing” as they undertake the project. They are supported by one or more academic supervisors who advise on experimental methodology and result interpretation.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation153M510 minute presentation on the dissertation followed by 5 minutes of questions
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Dissertation3M70Approx. 7000 words, to be written in the style of the most appropriate high-quality journal for the subject
Case study2M5Risk assessment, and COSHH, ethical assessment and GANTT timeline.
Research proposal1M20Project proposal Approx 2500 words in the style of an abridged RCUK Case for Support and Justification of Resources
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
Oral Presentation1MFormative group presentation on project idea.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The aim of the assessment is to test the student’s ability to develop and design a research project (Project Proposal) to answer a specific research question, to plan the implementation of the project (Project plan and GANTT) to undertake and report that investigation and to present the information both to an audience in the form of an oral presentation and as a manuscript suitable for submission as a journal paper.
The Group presentation formative assessment allows the student to receive feedback from instructors and peers before the preparation of the Project Proposal

Reading Lists