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CMB1011 : Professional and Practical Skills for Bioscientists

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Harley Stevenson-Cocks
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Alison Howard
  • Lecturer: Dr Julie Lane, Dr Simon Wilkinson, Dr Michelle Miller, Dr Simon Cockell, Dr Lindi Chen
  • Practical Supervisor: Professor Robert Hirt, Professor Christopher Eggett, Dr Jeremy Brown, Dr Christina Elliott, Dr Lindsey Ferrie, Dr Simon Bamforth, Mr Peter Luke, Dr Michele Sweeney, Dr Sarah Judge, Dr Beth Lawry, Dr Damian Parry, Dr Vanessa Armstrong, Dr Jun-yong Huang
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 15
Semester 2 Credit Value: 15
ECTS Credits: 15.0


This module aims to:

•       Provide a range of both practical laboratory skills and generic study skills essential to students studying biomolecular and biomedical sciences.
•       Provide opportunities for students to apply and strengthen theoretical knowledge gained in complementary and co-requisite modules in the performance of key analytical techniques and interpretation of data generated.
•       Develop safe laboratory practice

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is structured into eight strands, six that align with the co-requisite theoretical modules and two generic skills strands.

The generic skills strands consists of: maths support and skills seminars; lectures on good academic practice and scientific writing (essays and lab reports); information retrieval and interpretation; group oral presentation assignment; basic and intermediate analysis of data including statistics; data-handling workshops; bioinformatics; and bioethics.

The Biochemistry practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: spectrophotometry, ion exchange chromatography and enzyme kinetics; as well as online practical material covering the control of gene transcription (semester 1).

The Cell Biology practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: microscopic observation of unicellular eukaryotes; osmosis, pH and buffers; and neuromuscular function (semester 1).

The Genetics practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: genetic transformation of E.coli and use of PCR/electrophoresis for genetic analysis; as well as a computer-based practical covering gene linkage (semester 1).

The Microbiology and Immunology practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: introductory bacteriology; elements of the immune system and bacteriophage assays (semester 2).

The Physiology practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: the physiology of the cardiovascular system; blood pressure; and respiratory physiology and lung function (semester 2).

The Pharmacology practical skills strand consists of laboratory-based practicals on: drug metabolism in vitro by liver microsomes; determination of paracetamol pharmacokinetics using spectrophotometry; the absorption of paracetamol and the effect of charcoal on drug absorption (semester 2).

Online material will supplement practical skills in advance of and following each session as formative pre-and post-practical quizzes.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion181:0018:00Pre and post practical quiz review and completion.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00In Person - Lectures will be on the following; literature searching, report writing, reading a scientific paper, maths, PCR, study skills, skills test introduction, statistics, essay, oral presentation, bioinformatics (2) and feedback literacy.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical183:0054:00In Person - Each strand (cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, micro and imm, pharmacology and physiology has 3 associated 3hr labs)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading130:0030:00For summative assessments.
Guided Independent StudySkills practice11:001:00Practice and preparation for practical skills test component.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:00In Person - Scientific writing (lab report) sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00In Person - Bioinformatics workshop in computer cluster.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:00In Person - Data handling workshops in computer clusters.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1155:00155:00Consolidating knowledge of module and preparing work.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time181:0018:00Each practical has a 1hr online post practical seminar/tutorial via Zoom
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk21:002:00In Person - Semester 1 and 2 introductions.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures will provide an introduction to the module and provide information about referencing, structure of scientific reports and essays, good academic practice, numeracy and study skills.

2. Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and practical experience of information retrieval and numeracy skills and review practical classes.

3. Practicals will provide experience of laboratory work; information presented in practicals will include knowledge and understanding of the underlying principles of essential practical techniques and laboratory health and safety. Students will gain hands-on experience of a range of practical techniques and safe laboratory practice. Practical classes will allow students to develop skills in recording and analysing biological data, carrying out scientific calculations and using computers. Practicals also provide an opportunity for students to ask questions and exchange ideas with peers, demonstrators and academic staff in a relatively informal setting. Skills practiced include critical
thinking, data analysis, numeracy, and use of computer applications and virtual laboratory resources. 9x in person labs

4. Private study is used for self-directed learning and includes: reading lecture notes and texts; preparation for seminars and practicals; using learning resources on the Web. Skills practiced include critical thinking, active learning, goal setting and planning, information literacy and independence.

In-course assessments (formative practical quizzes, essays and practical reports) spread throughout the module will teach students time management and organisation and encourage independent working.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M20Structured practical lab report on assigned practical (750 words) plus 200 words relevant article section. Submit via Canvas.
Essay1M15In-course extended essay, maximum 1000 words.
Essay2M25Extended essay, maximum 1200 words
Practical/lab report2M30Structured practical lab report on assigned practical (750 words) plus 200 words on relevant article section and 200 words reflective element (total 1150).
Oral Presentation2M10Group presentation to peers (presenting groups will be 4-6, audience approx. 25 students). (1 hour)
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Lab exerciseMIn person practical skills assessment.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

All semester 2 components and the practical skills assessment must be passed, alongside achieving a module mark of 40%, in order to pass this module.

Students are expected to complete all formative pre and post-practical quizzes. Pre-practical quizzes form part of the practical pre-work and are requisite for students to access subsequent practical materials online and for attendance at laboratory classes. It is in students’ best interests to understand and complete all work associated with each practical, as they may be assigned any practical to submit written reports on each semester which cumulatively contribute 50% of the overall module mark.

The range of assessment styles and system of assessment will ensure students passing the module achieved all learning outcomes.

1. The practical reports will assess the students’ writing and information literacy skills, as well as their ability to interpret and analyse experimental data.

2. The extended essays will assess the students' writing skills, information literacy skills and ability to write a well- structured and correctly referenced essay on a scientific topic.

3. The practical skills assessment will assess students’ ability to perform basic laboratory techniques.

4. The formative practical quizzes will ensure students are familiar with the underlying theory of practicals and will allow students to develop their numeracy, data handling and data interpretation skills.

5. The oral presentation will assess the students' oral presentation skills, information literacy skills and ability to work as part of a team.

Reading Lists