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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Postgraduate

Postgraduate Course: Practical Skills in Biochemistry A (BICH11009)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides thorough training and hands-on experience in fundamental practical skills required for employment as a biochemical scientist. This courses covers ¿wet¿ laboratory work, laboratory bookkeeping, health and safety, scientific writing, numeracy and a small amount of bioinformatic analysis. Practical sessions involve comparison of different methods to determine protein concentrations in solutions and DNA recombinant technology - from primer design, through generation of a recombinant construct, to analysis of DNA sequence of the final product.
Course description This course aims to equip you with the fundamental technical and scientific writing skills that are transferable to a laboratory workplace. This is achieved by using a suite of experiments designed so that you are taught, and get to practice, correct techniques using a range of standard laboratory equipment and generating sets of data, with guidance on how to report and analyse that data. Although protocols and training are provided, you have to work in pairs and share equipment with other pairs, and the sessions are increasingly less recipe-driven, thus encouraging you to develop independent thought and team-working, organisational and time-management skills.

In addition to learning how to measure protein concentrations, the first few weeks give you practice in manipulating small volumes, careful pipetting, repeat measurements, dilution series, and calculations. The first assessment is a written report of their results which requires you to consider the value of alternative methods to determine protein concentration. This report also starts to teach you to learn to use correct scientific language and writing style, along with correct notation for reporting numbers (units and significant figures) and some basic statistical analysis of the variability in the class data. You are provided with individual written feedback designed to feed forward to all future scientific writing.

The second half of the course is dedicated to generating two recombinant vector constructs for the same gene, using two different approaches in parallel. You start by learning and using in silico tools to design primers for the initial PCR reactions for a specified gene fragment, given the sequences of the gene and the two target vectors. Over the next five weeks, you are taught to perform standard molecular biology techniques of PCR; AGE; DNA purification, quantitation, restriction enzyme digest, ligation; transformation, expression and preparation of recombinant DNA for sequencing. The course ends with analysing the sequencing data from the constructs they have generated. In addition to learning these techniques, you should also learn the value of good organisational skills required to ensure not only that work can be completed within the practical sessions, but that reagents and samples are clearly labelled and correctly stored for subsequent weeks. The final assessment is a full experimental write-up of this work in the form of a paper, again to practise using correct scientific language and writing style, and with a strong emphasis on a written description of results that are presented in appropriate and well-annotated figures.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Automation and Industry (PGBI11118)
Other requirements Pre-requisite: Undergraduate degree in either a biological or chemical science
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 3, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 30, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Practical skills and laboratory book (20%)«br /»
Written report (20%)«br /»
Experimental write-up (60%)
Feedback Individual or group verbal feedback in class, written comments in lab book. Individual written feedback on written assessments plus class-level verbal feedback on first written assessment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Prepare analytical quality solutions and dilution series ; determine concentrations of biological molecules by, and understand relative advantages of, a range of methods
  2. Design and execute a strategy for cloning of recombinant proteins, from primer design to the amplification, purification, restriction enzyme digest, ligation and transformation of DNA; through to the analysis of DNA sequencing data
  3. Correctly operate and calibrate, or understand principles of calibration of, fundamental laboratory equipment
  4. Analyse and manipulate experimental data, and present experiments and results in appropriate format
  5. Understand the health and safety responsibilities required for a laboratory
Reading List
¿Exploring Proteins, a student's guide to experimental skills and methods¿ by N. Price and J. Nairn, oxford University Press.

Read an occasional, relevant chapter, not necessarily for purchase.
"Principles and Techniques of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" by A. Hoffman and S. Clokie, Cambridge University Press.
"Practical Skills in Biomolecular Sciences" by R. Reed et al, Pearson Education.

For very detailed experimental protocols:
Molecular cloning: a laboratory manual by Sambrook et al. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and understanding: key aspects of recombinant cloning technology and protein concentration determination

Technical and Practical Skills: training and practise of common techniques, and correct use and calibration of fundamental equipment, used in a biochemistry lab.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy: course requires ability to (learn to) present and analyse experimental data effectively, and to integrate external reading material with taught material.

Communication: Oral communication: students need to communicate effectively with peers to organise experiments in pairs and share equipment in the lab. Scientific writing skills - students should learn to communicate details of experiments in different written formats, such as lab books, written reports, and experimental write-up
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Janice Bramham
Tel: (0131 6)50 4786
Course secretaryMiss Fionnuala Nidhonnabhain
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