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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Plant Science

Undergraduate Course: Plant Science Research Project (PLSC10026)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits60 ECTS Credits30
SummaryThis course aims to allow students to experience day to day research at a high level. Taught courses in the first semester prepare students for work in the lab by teaching the principles of basic techniques (solution making, DNA preps, PCR) and data analysis. The students will write a grant application for their own projects ensuring they have detailed plans and have considered all the potential pitfalls before they start in the lab.
Programme level learning 33 hours, project supervision 300 hours, directed learning and independent learning hours, 100 hours
Course description Apportion of marks:
10 Project Skills
10 Project Data Analysis
4 Project Proposal
8 Project Performance
24 Project Report
4 Project Presentation

Taught component assessed by two class test in semester 1. Two sets of classes: Project Skills, and Project Data Analysis
The course will involve 11 seminar classes on Tuesdays (Project Data Analysis) and 11 2 hour teaching sessions on Wednesdays (Project skills). Students will also be expected to be familiar with the material in C. Starr and R. Taggart Plant Structure and Function (Wadsworth, 2010).
The course will be taught by members of the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences.

Project skills classes:
1 Data presentation and statistics software
2 Data analysis using R
3 Site Visit
4 Over view of lab facilities, tour of labs, greenhouses, general safety issues
5 Sequencing techniques and analysis
6 DNA extractions, PCR, DNA gels
7 RNA extractions, q-RT-PCR
8 An introduction to phytochemistry
9 Protein work
10 Minerals and Culture media . Molar calculations for solution making

These classes will be assessed by a MCQ at the end of Semester 1 (10 Points)

Seminars in Plant Science
Semester 1 Tuesday mornings
Each lecturer on the course will put forward at least 3 recent papers in their line of research. For each class three students will prepare a 15 minute presentation focusing on critical analysis of the papers listed by one lecturer. The lecturer will guide discussion of the papers and provide feedback to the students on their presentation skills and their analysis of the paper. This will increase the students' knowledge of current research topics in the department, provide practice in presentations and enhance their ability to critically appraise papers. Data analysis skills will be also be taught be problems given out each Tuesday and handed in each Friday. Feedback will be provided and the problem worked through with the setter the following Tuesday. Skills acquired in these classes will be assessed by a class test at the end of Semester 1 (10 points).

Project proposal talk late November
This is a 15 minute talk introducing the project to the rest of the class and the supervisor. It is unmarked but the supervisor will give feedback. It will ensure that students have engaged with their projects and provide an opportunity for the supervisors to determine whether changes need to be made. This does not contribute to a final mark.

Project Proposal due early January
This is a short grant proposal with the following structure:
Potential problems and solutions
Timeline (as Gantt chart, week by week)
The proposal will be assessed by the supervisor and moderated by the course organiser (5 points).

Project Performance
The project will start part time in the lab in the beginning of semester 2, becoming full time as the electives finish. Students will be expected to arrange with their supervisors when they will be in the lab. Some projects will require set-up in semester 1, but overall time in the lab should be the same for all students.
The student's performance in the lab will be assessed by their supervisor at the end of the project on the following equal criteria:
Understanding of the project and its aims
Technical ability (e.g. accuracy, reliability, problem-solving ability, aptitude for learning new techniques)
Ability to work independently but to seek advice when required
Commitment to the project (e.g. time-keeping, persistence in the face of difficulty)
Originality - ability to suggest new, and preferably feasible, directions within the project.
(5 points)

Project talk - end of semester 2
12 minute talk at after submission of the project write up. Presentation of the results of the project to the class, lab members and the external examiner.
Is assessed by the staff members present on the following criteria:
Clear objectives
Clarity and organisation of presentation
Audible, enthusiastic, good projection, good timing
Clear summary
Good slides
Confident handling of questions
(2 points)

Project Report - End of semester 2
A write-up of the project work in the format: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion. No limit on length, but typically about 5,000 words. Assessed by the project supervisor and one other member of staff on the following criteria:
Quality of presentation (grammar; layout of text, with suitable headings; an appropriate and consistent style of citing of references; quality of images, graphs, tables; pages numbered; etc.)
Title and abstract. Title should be concise and informative. The Abstract must be 200 words and should state results and conclusions as well as outlining the experiments
Clear and logical description of the project and the results obtained
Quality of the analysis and interpretation of data
Quality of discussion (e.g. appreciation of significance of results and relation to the work of others, ideas for future work)
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 600 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 250, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 3, External Visit Hours 8, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Formative Assessment Hours 4, Summative Assessment Hours 4, Other Study Hours 38, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 12, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 250 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Researching and writing your project, preparing for your presentation
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 55 %, Practical Exam 45 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Project Skills 10 points (16.67%)
Data analysis problems 10 points (16.7%)
Grant proposal 4 points (8.33%)
Project performance 8 points (13.33%)
Project presentation 4 points (3.33%)
Project write-up 24 points (41.67%)
Feedback Instant feedback on practise questions for QMP Project Skills.
Feedback each week on Data Analysis problems and Seminar Presentations.
Feedback from supervisor on Project Proposal Presentation.
Feedback from markers on Project Proposal.
Feedback from Course Organiser on Project Presentation at practice session.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Practical skills in plant molecular biology
  2. Critical assessment of research papers
  3. Project planning and grant writing
  4. Written presentation of a research project
  5. Oral presentation of data
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Plant Science 4 aims to promote:
1. an understanding and appreciation of contemporary plant science, in a range of research areas, via lectures, discussions, tutorials and practical work.
2. problem solving abilities, including the capacity to analyse data and synthesise information in the solution of scientific problems or the posing of realistic hypotheses.
3. practical and time-management skills, familiarity with experimental techniques and the ability to design and execute experiments while showing due regard to safety and respect for organisms and communities.
4. awareness of plants as organisms in natural environments and of the techniques and limitations involved in outdoor study.
5. the ability to extract relevant information from literature and to present it in writing in a concise, coherent thoughtful and interesting way.
6. the ability to research, plan, deliver and defend a scientific talk in an effective manner, displaying command of topic, of aids to presentation, and of the audience.
7. finally, in all the above, the development and display of original thought, based on rational evaluation of possibilities.

The Honours degree in Plant Sciences is aimed to provide not only a thorough understanding of plant biology but as part of this it will help you develop a range of graduate skills which the University has identified as: Knowledge and Understanding, Research and Enquiry, Personal and Intellectual Autonomy, Communication, Personal Effectiveness and Technical and Practical Skills.

All of the modules offered in PS4 help develop knowledge and understanding of plant science, and the large amount of self-directed study required will develop personal and intellectual autonomy, but they also contribute to other graduate skills to differing degrees.

Compulsory courses:
The Plant Science Field Course teaches practical skills in plant identification and field observation, which will increase your knowledge and understanding of plant ecology and evolution. The field project will develop research and enquiry skills as well as require you to demonstrate personal and intellectual autonomy and personal effectiveness. These skills will also be key for the Plant Science Project in Semester 2.

The Plant Science Project will provide an opportunity to develop your skills in research and enquiry, as you investigate a specific problem and experience what routine lab-work is like. You will learn the specific technical and practical skills required for your project and working alongside other scientists will require good personal effectiveness, team work and time management. Although you will be given as much guidance as you need, particularly at the start of your project, it is a wonderful opportunity for you to demonstrate your personal and intellectual autonomy as you develop your own approaches to the problems you will encounter.

The synoptic examination is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your knowledge and understanding and your intellectual autonomy in long answers to wide ranging questions.

A range of technical skills and knowledge is taught by the electives offered in the Plant Science Honours degree, from generating herbicide resistant crops in Intelligent Agriculture to speciation genetics in Plant Evolution and cell wall biochemistry in Plant Growth and Development. All the electives require considerable individual study and extensive reading, developing research and enquiry skills and requiring personal effectiveness.
Course organiserDr Catherine Kidner
Tel: (0131 6)51 3316
Course secretaryMs Louise Robertson
Tel: (0131 6)50 5988
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