University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Deanery of Biomedical Sciences : Biomedical Sciences

Undergraduate Course: Biomedical Sciences 3: Contemporary Applications (VS2) (BIME09010)

Course Outline
SchoolDeanery of Biomedical Sciences CollegeCollege of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityPart-year visiting students only
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will attempt to develop students' understanding of how current biomedical knowledge is generated from experiment and disseminated through the research literature, to prepare students for the transition to senior Honours. It aims to provide students with a secure grounding in the core skills of designing scientifically valid experiments, collecting, analysing and interpreting data, communicating scientific ideas and results, and in being able to critically evaluate primary research papers. It will cover a variety of experimental techniques commonly used in the biomedical sciences, so that students have an appreciation of when such techniques can be used, their strengths and weaknesses, and the type of data they produce. To illustrate some broad themes within contemporary biomedical sciences and the power of interdisciplinary approaches, the course will also cover the drug discovery and development process, the use of computational modelling approaches, the growing importance of large datasets (eg from next-generation sequencing and microarrays), and ethical issues in biomedical research.

Teaching will be through a combination of lectures, practicals (both wet and dry), and tutorials. Each practical and tutorial will be linked to associated material covered in the lecture series. Extensive use will also be made of online learning environments to provide learning resources, self-assessment exercises, and peer-feedback mechanisms (PeerWise). A variety of in-course assessments will give an opportunity to students to assess their understanding of material and to receive both formative and summative feedback.
Course description Lectures will be structured around several themes:

Keynote lectures - 2 lectures illustrating how integrated application of the approaches covered in this course are furthering understanding of key issues in biomedical science.

Contemporary themes - 6 lectures covering the drug discovery and development process, the use of modelling approaches, the growing importance of large datasets (eg in bioinformatics), and ethical issues in biomedical research.

Obtaining data from experiments - 2 lectures on high-throughput methods of molecular analysis. Lectures will frame the techniques in the context of specific biomedical topics (eg role of genes in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimers and stroke). The emphasis will be on a 'problem-driven' rather than 'technique-driven' mode of teaching.

Scientific communication - 1 or 2 - lectures on how to effectively communicate biomedical data and knowledge in a variety of formats. These prepare students for elements of ICA in semester 2 that are also linked to semester 2 tutorials.

Additional lectures will serve to introduce the concepts involved in specific practicals and to give rapid (class-wide) feedback on assignments (prior to detailed individual feedback delivered in other ways).

Practicals are a vital part of the course, giving students experience in designing experiments, collecting data and analysing it. Two computer-based practicals will run, these practicals will have associated elements of in-course assessment.

Practical 1 (Sem.2) (Computer-based) Simulation Models of Neuroendocrine Function
Obtaining data from a simulation model of the pituitary, formulating and testing hypotheses.

Practical 2 (Sem.2) (Computer-based) Bioinformatics
Extracting datasets (eg on gene expression and sequence variants) from online databases and using them to test specific quantitative hypotheses, with appropriate statistical controls.

Within the main BMS3 course, students on specific Honours Programmes will be allocated to associated tutorial groups, so that each Honours Programme can deliver Semester 2 tutorials tailored to their own cohort. Visiting students will be asked for the purposes of the course to choose a Programme so that they can be assigned to a tutorial group.

Two tutorials in semester 2 will then cover papers/topics specific to the particular Programmes. The first of these (Tutorial 3) will lead to an assessed poster presentation, just prior to Innovative Learning Week. The exercise will centre on a topic within the Programme discipline: the tutor will select suitable papers and the student must then select one of these and produce an A3 poster which summarises the research topic, identifies the resulting research questions, and provides a plan for how these can be addressed in the next study in that particular field. Submission will be just prior to Innovative Learning Week, so the posters could then be displayed (and assessed) during ILW, and feedback provided. (Development of the skill in poster design & execution will come in the second part of Semester 2, with submission of a second poster, on the results from Practical 5 on Simulation Models of Neuroendocrine Function.) Tutorial 4 will be an unassessed 'journal-club' style session, where groups of students present on key papers in their specific Honours discipline (following a preparatory teaching session specific to each Honours Programme). This is intended to help prepare students for giving assessed oral presentations in Year 4.

A third tutorial will focus on essay writing under exam conditions. The students will have been given a sample essay question prior to the tutorial, which they will answer in their independent study time. At the tutorial the students will both assess the work of their peers (using a marking scheme) and receive feedback from their tutor.

Biomedical Sciences 3 VS2 is the semester 2 component of Biomedical Sciences 3 suitable for visiting students.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students successfully completing the course should: * develop an understanding of broad themes within contemporary biomedical sciences
  2. * acquire the ability to understand, interpret and evaluate primary biomedical research papers as well as the ability to frame scientific hypotheses and to design scientifically valid experiments to test them using appropriate experimental techniques
  3. * gain experience in collecting sets of data, analysing them and utilising formal statistical methods to test hypotheses
  4. * have demonstrated technical skill in accurately writing up practical reports
  5. * gain competence in the accurate communication of biomedical knowledge
Reading List
It is not easy to recommend books for this course as there is a diverse background in knowledge and previous courses taken. It is not necessary to buy any books at all.

If your basic mathematics is a bit rusty, you should first read the "Quantitative Skills Refresher Notes" posted on Learn.

The following may be useful for those who find maths and statistics a challenge:
Maths & Stats for the life and medical sciences, M. Harris et al., 2005, Scion Publishing Ltd. This is part of the "CatchUp" series.

Intuitive Biostatistics, H. Motulsky (2nd Edn) 2010, OUP.

A good book covering experimental design, statistical analysis, and much else besides is:
Asking Questions in Biology, C. Barnard, F.Gilbert, P.McGregor, (4th edn) 2011, Pearson.
(The 3rd edition, published in 2007, would also be fine.)

Check that the books are appropriate for your knowledge background by consulting a library copy before purchase. Note that you don¿t always need the most recent edition for statistics/maths books ¿ things have not moved on that much at this level. Second hand books will do.

A fairly comprehensive set of papers on statistics by Bland et al. can be found at:
Note that after following the link to a particular paper it is best to select the PDF version rather than viewing the default HTML version.

Also, the British Medical Journal has produced an excellent collection of material regarding experimental design and statistics:

Other papers will also be listed by individual lecturers.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Thomas Pratt
Tel: (0131 6)51 1707
Course secretaryMiss Alexandra Lowe
Tel: (0131 6)51 1513
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information