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NES3305 : Biological Modelling

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Stephen Rushton
  • Lecturer: Dr Roy Sanderson, Dr Mark Shirley
  • 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
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To introduce students to the methodology of designing and implementing biological models for tactical and strategic research.

Outline Of Syllabus

The timetable has two blocks of teaching activities: lectures and practicals in the computer laboratory.

The course will consist of three components:

i) Introduction to the theory behind biological modelling. This will comprise 5-6 hours of lectures where students are introduced to different approaches and different applications. The emphasis will be on when, where and how one models different systems. During the course of developing their own model, students will be assessed on defining the problem, scoping the problem, formulation of conceptual diagrams and mathematical formulation of the problem.

ii) Using Shiny-based models to answer biological systems problems

iii) Development of a model tailored to the individual students interests. This element of the course involves computing, analysis and write up of reports. The majority of this work including the writing is undertaken under supervision. Students are trained to write their reports as an academic publication.

iv) Introduction to problem solving using a modelling approach. This aims to discuss how one would create a model and use it to solve a real ecological problem.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture91:009:00Lectures - recording available on Canvas
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00preparation and completion of 40% assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion180:0080:00Revision and completion for end of 60% assessment
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0024:00Private study of handbook
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops53:0015:00In person workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery121:0012:00Weekly session on problem solving
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Online lectures are used to explain the challenging conceptual framework which underpins different modelling approaches in ecology, backed up by references to the research literature.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M40Project Report - design of modelling approach to analyse a problem of the students choice
Report1M60Shiny Apps Report on the interpretation of outputs from use of 7 on-line Shiny Apps
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
Written exercise1MEach student will be expected to present a diagram of their conceptual model that will form the basis of assessment 2 in the workshops.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The report assesses practical modelling skills primarily; scoping the problem, and designing and implementing a solution. The key objective of the module is to provide translational skills. These are best achieved through practical approaches to problem solving as experienced in the project itself and the write up.

Students are not penalised if the model fails to solve the problem.

Study Abroad students may request to take their exam before the semester 1 exam period, in which case the format of the paper may differ from that shown in the MOF. Study Abroad students should contact the school to discuss this.

Reading Lists