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BIO3053 : Current Research in Plant and Microbial Biology

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Frank Sargent
  • Lecturer: Dr James Stach, Professor Angharad MR Gatehouse
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


1. To expose students directly to the research process in plant and microbial biology: from conception of studies and hypothesis generation; data gathering methodologies; data analysis; preparation of scientific manuscripts and publication. This will be achieved by taking part in seminars given by active researchers describing their own published work and discussion of the route to successful publication.
2. To develop student’s critical thinking and analysis of research work in progress and in print.
3. Develop students' ability to clearly present plant and microbial science in written and graphical form.

Outline Of Syllabus

The purpose of this module is to provide an understanding of current research related to the Cellular and Molecular Biology degree programme that takes place in the Plant and Microbial Biology Research Group.

The course will comprise a series of lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials.

The course will include interactive talks from members of the Plant and Microbial Biology Research Group covering recently published, or soon to be published, studies.

The interactive talks will cover the conception of scientific studies; generation of testable hypotheses; research techniques and methods; the structure of scientific manuscripts; and writing for non-expert audiences.

Workshops and tutorials will cover data analysis and descriptive statistical methods; data presentation and visualisation; and the generation of figures and illustrations for scientific papers and reports.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials10:300:30Online via Canvas - introduction to the module, familiarise yourself with the topics and reading mat
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion220:0040:00Online - Preparation of data visualisations/plots (40%)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion252:0050:00Online - preparation of News and Views article (60%)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities53:0015:00Directed reading of papers from lecturers prior to seminars
Guided Independent StudySkills practice501:0050:00Online - Development of statistics and graphics skills
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops33:009:00PiP - Skills training in R statistical package and graphics programmes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops41:004:00Online skills workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00Online - drop in sessions for Q&A on assessment preparation
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study118:3018:30Independent reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk52:0010:00PiP - seminar/journal club presenting PMB research
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

An introductory seminar will introduce the course by providing a broad overview of a published research paper, with insight into the methods and data presented in the paper.

Lectures will be interactive, encouraging students to question concepts and ideas and to develop critical analytical skills when interrogating the wider literature. The development of this expertise will underpin the capacity of the students to undertake private study.

Present in Person workshops will allow students to develop skills in data analysis and presentation through guided computer-based exercises.

Students will be directed to supporting information to consolidate their learning by guided independent study. Students will be expected to undertake a significant amount of independent at this stage in their programme, developing key skills such as Active Learning, Goal Setting and Action Planning, Decision Making, and Initiative.

Assessment preparation and completion will allow students to fully prepare for their formative and summative coursework. They will have the opportunity to consolidate and build upon knowledge gained in the taught sessions

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M40Data visualisation exercise.
Written exercise1M601500 words. Prepare a news and views article with a graphical abstract for one of the presented research papers
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The report on the content of a research paper describing a recent advance in plant and microbial biology tests the students’ analytical skills, their capacity to interpret experimental data and their ability to explain complex scientific principles, approaches and findings in terms accessible to a more general audience.

The graphical abstract tests students' capacity to extract key ideas from papers and to adapt key textual and visual elements into an easily interpreted graphic for a general audience.
The data plotting exercise tests students' skills in the use of statistical and plotting software to produce a high-quality plot of scientific data in a format suitable for publication in a paper or report.

Reading Lists