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CMB2000 : Essential Biomedical Research Skills

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Vanessa Armstrong
  • Lecturer: Dr Simon Cockell, Professor Brian Morgan, Mrs Rebecca Maier, Dr Luke Gaughan, Dr Damian Parry, Professor Michael Briggs, Professor David Lydall, Dr Marco Trevisan-Herraz, Mx Jan Deckers, Mr David McGeeney
  • 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;

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

Strand B: 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.

Strand C: 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.

Strand D: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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture251:0025:00PIP - Includes 21 lectures and 4 post practical lectures
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials51:005:00Non-synchronous online - Pre-recorded lectures (5 Statistics)
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials11:001:00Non-synchronous online - pre-recorded ethics essay lecture.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical16:006:00Practical 1a: lab H&S, basic technique revision, set up PCR - PIP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical12:002:00Practical 1b: Agarose gel electrophoresis and mini prep - PIP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical15:005:00Practical 2: Evaluation of expression of recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli - PIP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical15:005:00Practical 3: ELISA - PIP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Synch online seminar based on PCR (via Zoom)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Synchronous online - Clinical Trials debate. Via Zoom/task/issues to be discussed.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00PIP - Ethics Seminar: Opportunity to chat with those doing the same essay question.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00PIP - Informatics seminar/workshop support in computer clusters
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Synchronous online, revision / exam support.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops51:005:00PIP - Statistics IT workshops, support will be available based in computer clusters
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1391:00139:00Writing up lecture notes, reviewing resources, revision and general reading.
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 A:
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).

Ethics strand B:
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.

Informatics strand C:
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. Online support will be available via Zoom by the lecturer.

Statistics strand D:
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 released 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.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination901A40PIP Inspera Invigilated: Quiz Format Questions/Data Interpretation/graphs. 100% Strand A. Maximum 50 questions.
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
Portfolio1M60Comment: In-course 20% statistics, 20% ethics, 20% informatics
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Practical/lab report1Meach practical has an associated formative assessment, electronic feedback will be provided.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Practical strand (Total 40%: Exam)

On practical techniques and laboratory practical 1,2, supplementary practical and 3. On-line and automatically marked worksheets comprising mainly quiz format 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).

Ethics strand (Total 20%: Coursework)

The ethics strand consists of the seven ethics lectures, the essay question-based seminar and the opportunity to be involved with 2 synchronous discussions. This strand will be assessed by a written assignment (1000 words total part b). The title will reflect key ethical dilemmas (choice of one of three). Instructions will be provided at the introduction session and in a pre-recorded session. The assignment will provide students with the opportunity to reflect on an ethical issue.

Informatics strand (Total 20%: Coursework)

The informatics strand consists of the Informatics lectures, along with the Informatics training session. Assessment consists of a 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.

Statistics strand (Total 20%: Coursework)

The statistics strand consists of 5 lectures (pre-recorded) and 5 in person 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 (NUMBAS will be used). The online assessment is able to provide feedback and marks quickly and efficiently.

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.

Reading Lists