Skip to main content


Professional Skills

Module titleProfessional Skills
Module codeBIOM509
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Alison Hill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module you will 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. Illustrate some current key topics in contemporary science
  • 2. Describe thoroughly statistical methods and tests useful for designing experiments and analysing experimental data
  • 3. Utilise effectively various information networks and databases for furthering your knowledge in science
  • 4. Explain the relevant health and safety issues associated with laboratory and field work in science
  • 5. Communicate science effectively through oral and written presentations to a non-specialist audience

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Evaluate critically and describe systematically current problems and/or new insights in biological sciences much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the field of study
  • 7. Describe comprehensively some techniques applicable to research in relevant Bioscience areas
  • 8. Apply knowledge with originality and explain how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline
  • 9. 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...

  • 10. 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
  • 11. Tackle and solve problems with self-direction and originality, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 12. Demonstrate self-direction in advancing your knowledge and understanding and in developing new skills to a high level

Syllabus plan

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: statistical analysis and experimental design - use of "R" software, Excel and SPSS is facilitated through several assignments using real data examples. These assignments are carried out as a series of 2-3 hour computer laboratory classes that are supervised by teaching assistants highly qualified in statistical analysis. This training is also supported by "surgeries" operated by the relevant academic staff, and ELE Q/A chat rooms.
  • 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 and teaching

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 Teaching16Statistics lectures and workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6R programming lectures and Workshop
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Departmental seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Safety training
Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Careers and development
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Lectures (10 hours)
Guided Independent Study20Statistics practice and revision
Guided Independent Study1Revision for tests
Guided Independent Study20Careers and professional development
Guided Independent Study30Independent reading to support seminars
Guided Independent Study8Oral presentation preparation
Guided Independent Study4Literature review preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation 20 minutes1, 3, 5-12Written and oral
Careers guidance3 x 2 hour workshops10-12Oral

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 assessment101 hour4Written
Seminar reports and abstracts40(2 x 300 words; 2 x 150 words)1, 3, 6-13Written
Statistical analysis assignment255-8 hours2, 6-12Written
Plagiarism/academic honesty test510 MCQ questions8, 11-12Answers on ELE
Written report20750 words1, 3, 5-12Written


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 assessment4August/September
Seminar reports and abstractsSeminar reports and abstracts1, 3, 6-13August/September
Statistical analysis assignmentStatistical analysis assignment2, 6-12August/September
Plagiarism/academic honesty testPlagiarism/academic honesty test8, 11-12August/September
Written reportWritten report1, 3, 5-12August/September

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral 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 overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to re-submit the relevant assessment. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral 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 has an active 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