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CMB2000 : Essential Biomedical Research Skills

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Vanessa Armstrong
  • Lecturer: Dr George Schlossmacher, Mr Jan Deckers, Dr Matthew Bashton, Mrs Rebecca Maier, Professor Elaine McColl, Professor David Lydall, Professor Michael Briggs, Professor Brian Morgan, Mr David McGeeney, Dr Beth Lawry, Dr Damian Parry
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to give students a broad understanding of the principles underpinning techniques commonly used within biosciences as well as develop skills competence in molecular biology techniques. Students will learn how to utilise informatics and statistical software alongside technical theory to interpret results/data. An awareness and understanding of health and safety and ethical issues associated with scientific research will also be covered.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus for this module can be considered under four interrelated strands;

• Practical - Molecular biology techniques covered in practical laboratory classes are; DNA (plasmid)
isolation/purification, heat shock transformation of E.Coli, PCR, agarose gel electrophoresis,
restriction enzyme digest, SDS-PAGE, Western Blotting / immunoprobing and ELISA.

• Informatics - The complexity of molecular biology and vast amount of data generated means that
students need a clear understanding of how technologies can be used to search for, interrogate and analyse
information and data effectively. A range of informatics tools, resources and databases will be introduced.

• Statistics - The analysis of data requires the application of statistics, including basic data
analysis, probability (including Hardy-Weinberg equation), normal distribution, inference, t-Test,
correlation and regression.

• Ethics - Much of the scientific research introduces a number of ethical dilemmas and questions that
students (as scientists) must be aware of and consider throughout their career. A series of
lectures will examine the concepts of ethical reasoning and extend this to animal and human
research and clinical trials.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture311:0031:00This includes 27 lectures plus 4 post practical feedback sessions.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical51:005:00Statistics IT practical sessions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical16:006:00Practical 4: Measurement of novel protein concentration by Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical16:006:00Practical 3: Evaluation of expression of recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical14:004:00Practical 2: SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and immunoblotting.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical112:0012:00Practical 1: Analysis of recombinant plasmid
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Ethical debate and group discussion
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00Informatics Seminar. 5 slots over 5 days (morning preferred).
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1132:00132:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The didactic lecture is still the most efficient means of providing knowledge of method principles (K1, K2) and concepts in ethics (K3).

Practical strand
Basic experience and practical competence in the core molecular techniques is important to all students irrespective of the degree programme (S1). Emphasis will be made on the link between techniques by investigating a putative gene that has sequence similarity to other proteins involved in transmembrane transport (K1). The techniques progress from isolation of genetic material, engineering genes into plasmids and transformation of organisms to produce the protein product. Characterisation of the protein, expression, identification and quantification follow (S2).

Informatics strand
Although frequently referred to as bioinformatics, the module does look at wider informatics (S3). BLAST searching and interpretation of results on several commonly used bioinformatics websites provides students with sufficient knowledge to use the tools without becoming bioinformaticians. The need to revisit the avoidance of plagiarism is timely at this point as students start to write more essays and gain a better understanding of scientific writing (S4). ‘Cloud-based’ documents and databases are increasingly popular and will be used to handle some of the data and link the laboratory practical and informatics strands. Students will have the ability to access a formative interactive on-line practical that they can perform as many times as they wish individually or as a study group prior to the on-line assessment. Drop-in workshops will be available for students who are struggling with any aspect of this practical.

Statistics strand
A close integration between didactic lectures and practical sessions in an IT cluster allow students to immediately apply theoretical knowledge. Each week students get a 1 hr lecture on one aspect of numerical data analysis (K2) followed by a 1 hr practical class in which commercially available statistical software will be used (S5). The sequence of topics develops an appreciation of statistics and an introductory competence in their use.

Ethics strand
Ethics surrounding scientific research influences all areas of science and is therefore important to all degree programmes (K3). Lectures provide the most efficient means of providing information about ethics. This is supported by a seminar session to facilitate interactive debate and better prepare the student for the assessment.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A40MCQs and short answer questions. Question weighting: 20% practical strand; 10% statistics; 10% informatics.
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
BMN2000Essential Biomedical Research Skills1Sister module delivered at NuMed. To be timetable at 9:30 am and not on a Friday.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M60In-course: 15% Practical; 12.5% Statistics; 20% Ethics; 12.5% Informatics.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Practical strand (Total 35%: 15% coursework and 20% exam)
The practical strand consists of lectures on practical techniques and laboratory practicals 1, 2, 3 and 4. On-line and automatically marked worksheets comprising mainly MCQ style questions will be used to provide feedback and self-evaluation of student's understanding of the laboratory practicals. The material taught in this strand will also be examined as part of Written Examination 1 (see Assessment tables).

Informatics strand (Total 22.5%: 12.5% coursework and 10% exam)
The informatics strand consists of the Informatics lectures, along with the Informatics training session. Assessment consists of a three hour online computer assessment (short answer questions) which will test an individual student’s ability to find and interpret informatics data. The format will be almost identical to that undertaken as the formative informatics on-line practical. The material taught in this strand will also be examined as part of Written Examination 1 (see Assessment tables).

Statistics strand (Total 22.5%: 12.5% coursework and 10% exam)
The statistics strand consists of 5 lectures and 5 online sessions as outlined in the Teaching Activities table. The assessment consists of written worksheets and on-line assessment (short answer questions). A unique set of data for each student generated from their student ID number is used to test the student’s ability to apply appropriate statistical methods and interpret the results. The online assessment is able to provide feedback and marks quickly and efficiently. The material taught in this strand will also be examined as part of Written Examination 1 (see Assessment tables).

Ethics strand (Total 20%: 20% coursework)
The ethics strand consists of the five ethics lectures, and the seminar. This strand will be assessed by a written assignment (1000 total word limit). The title will reflect the latest ethical dilemma in the news and will therefore change from year to year. Instructions will be provided at the introduction session. The assignment will provide students with the opportunity to reflect on an ethical issue.

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely. The form of assessment will not vary from the original.

Reading Lists