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Study information

Professional Skills

Module titleProfessional Skills
Module codeBIOM509
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Alison Hill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will be trained in relevant skills for postgraduate study. Oral communication skills will be enhanced by video recording of student oral presentations and written communication skills will be enriched through specialised science communication lectures. You will also get experience in writing conference abstracts and reports for non-scientists as well as scientific literature. You will receive training in experimental design and statistical methods for data analysis, as well as health and safety training. Bespoke career guidance and feedback will be provided by the University Careers Zone staff.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to ensure that you are trained in the appropriate methodological skills to undertake work at Masters level, and to ensure that early in the programme you are equipped with the range of transferable and personal skills necessary for the programme generally and more widely for careers in industry, government agencies and academia. Accordingly, you are introduced to skills involving: statistics and experimental design, communication skills (both oral and written, for specialist and wider audiences), discussion of and recognition of plagiarism, time and project management, health and safety, use of information networks and databases for e-science purposes, career and employment skills. Critically, the module also aims to provide a basis for the advanced research skills which are developed in research project modules.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Choose appropriate statistical methods and tests to design experiments and analyse experimental data
  • 2. Utilise effectively various information networks and databases for furthering your knowledge in science
  • 3. Explain the relevant health and safety issues associated with laboratory and field work in science and independently complete COSHH forms
  • 4. Effectively communicate complex scientific ideas to a wide range of audiences

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Critically evaluate, interpret and present scientific literature
  • 6. Interpret quantitative data, including the application of relevant statistical methods
  • 7. Evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate your conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • 9. Tackle and solve problems with self-direction and originality, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 10. Demonstrate self-direction in advancing your knowledge and understanding and in developing new skills to a high level

Syllabus plan

Specific topics covered may change annually to focus on the latest developments and to reflect the expertise of speakers, but coverage will include:

  • Basic Research Skills: literature searching and information retrieval including database and WWW access; management of science in public sector and industry.
  • Personal and Key Skills: effective and safe communication using contemporary platforms.
  • Laboratory and Field Safety: COSHH and risk assessment relevant to Biosciences, fire handling, first aid, manual handling. Example assessments of risk/COSSH assignments must be completed satisfactorily (formative feedback is provided by the School Safety Officer to ensure this is done correctly).
  • Communication of Science: training is provided in communicating science for a non-specialist audience, including creation of web-based material and media training with our University Science Press Officer. This also includes practice oral presentations that receive written formative feedback, and viewing a video of your own presentation for self-appraisal and improvement.
  • Statistics: Experimental design, principles and applications of statistical methods and data analysis. 
  • Entrepreneurship: You will learn about a Department of Biosciences spin-out company. The technology, funding and running of the company will all be discussed.
  • Library and IT Skills: computer systems, networks, operating systems, basic computer software use, and the World Wide Web.
  • Scientific Awareness: you will attend a program of School seminars from internal and external speakers.
  • Career and Employability Skills: grant proposals. Application processes for level 7 graduates’ career pathways for academic research and industry. A careers drop-in clinic is operated and opportunities to meet alumni and relevant employers are provided.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching26Lectures and workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Departmental seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Student-led seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10On-line statistics Smart Worksheets
Guided Independent Study4Pre-recorded content and associated online resources
Guided Independent Study46Lecture consolidation and associated reading
Guided Independent Study50Completion of coursework
Guided Independent Study8Careers and professional development

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation 20 minutes (12 mins plus questions)2,4,5,7Written and oral
Careers guidance2 x 2 hour workshops8-10Oral
Statistics4 x Smart Worksheets1,6,8-10Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Safety/risk assessment15COSHH form (equivalent to 1000 words)3Written
Seminar report and abstract301 x 300 words; 1 x 150 words4,5,7-10Written
Statistical assessment25Equivalent to 1000 words1, 6-10Written
Plagiarism/academic honesty test510 MCQ questions9,10Answers on ELE
Written report25750 words2,4,5,7-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Safety/risk assessmentSafety/risk assessment (15%)3August Ref/Def
Seminar report and abstractSeminar report and Abstract (30%)4,5,7-10August Ref/Def
Statistical assessmentStatistical assessment (25%)1,6-10August Ref/Def
Plagiarism/academic honesty testPlagiarism/academic honesty test (5%)9,10August Ref/Def
Written reportWritten report (25%)2,4,5,7-10August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral - if you have failed the module (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Stuart, C. (2005). Speak for Yourself: How to Give Persuasive Presentations and Entertaining Talks - With Confidence. Piatkus Books, London.
  • Barass, R. (2002). Scientists Must Write: A Guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students (Routledge Study Guides), Routledge, London.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • Module-specific ELE page

Key words search

Statistical methods and tests, science communication, professional development, health and safety, current topics in contemporary science

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date