SCIU1LS: Practical Science Skills I: Laboratory Skills

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Tim Whalley


Normally concurrent registration for BIOU1CB

Aims and Objectives

To provide students in the Biological and Environmental Sciences with the elementary laboratory skills which they require to pursue subsequent advanced modules. The programme assumes no previous experience of working in the laboratory but includes a wide range of experiences at a practical and intellectual level that students with Advanced and Higher Level qualifications are unlikely to have experienced.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module students will have demonstrated an ability to pursue 
• basic methods for measurement of mass, volume, time, pH, absorbance, protein concentration and enzyme activity over a range of scales on a range of biological and environmental common materials 
• pursue methods for making precise and accurate measurements on a range of samples representative of those typically encountered by biologists and environmental scientists 
• the report, analyses and draw conclusions from the results obtained from their investigations

Acquired Skills

• Practical skills; to follow written procedures which involve the management and pursuit of a diverse range of common laboratory tasks so as to achieve a successful outcome 
• Laboratory safety ; assessment of hazards and minimising risks when working in a laboratory. 
• Application of number; data collection and its subsequent analysis.
• Written communication; directed data presentation. 
• Information retrieval skills; appreciation of the resources available in the University library 


Lectures 10 -12 Lectures (50 Minutes),

Practicals 9 Laboratory sessions (Three hours) 
Students attend one practical (Duration 3h ) and at least one briefing lecture ( Duration 50 
minutes) each week. Although any individual student attends only one practical session each week they will be allocated to one of three alternative times during the week. 
Session A Monday 1400 - 1700 Lab 2B147 
Session B Tuesday 1000 – 1300 Lab 2B147 
Session C Tuesday 1400 - 1700 Lab 2B147 

Students are allocated to one particular practical session at registration and attend at the same session each week. They may not exchange the session they are allocated to without permission of the module co-ordinator. Valid reasons for a change are the same reasons as those given in the Student Handbook as valid reasons for missing a compulsory class. 

Lecture topics; Outline 

Welcome and General Introduction to SBES
Laboratory safety (TDW)
Appreciating SI units  and basic chemical formulae as abbreviations (MW)
Concentration (MW)
Dilution (TDW)
Principles of Spectrometry, Absorbance, Lambert Beer Law. Extinction coefficients  (MW)
Microscopy 1 (TDW)

Theory Test 1 for all students

Working with microorganisms (MW)
Proteins and Enzymes (MW)
Peer Assessment (MW)
Electrophoresis (MW)

Theory test 2 for all students

Scope of lectures and practicals; Preliminary study

Lectures; Most lectures will use Powerpoint and the images shown in lectures will appear on the SC11LS WebCT site at least 48h before the lecture to give students the opportunity to see the depth and breadth of the material to be covered in the lecture and allow the time for any preparation that they may wish to pursue.

Practicals; Practical schedules will appear on the SC11LS WebCT site at least 6 days before the practical session. Students must print the schedule and bring it with them to the practical. They must have read the schedule before the session and are recommended to visualise the methods that they will pursue during the practical.


Practical reports A number of practicals are associated with a written report which must be submitted and assessed. Students will be instructed in the relevant content to include in their laboratory reports.  Reports will be graded using a restricted number of grades on the University Common Grading System.  Work will be graded

Pass grades       1B     Excellent          2B Very Good              2E Good                         3B Satisfactory      

Fail grades        4B    Marginally unsatisfactory                      5B Unsatisfactory.           X  Not completed

If work is graded 5B the work may need to be resubmitted.  Resubmission may have a very short timescale in which it has to be completed. 


Either Jones, A., Reed, R., Weyers, J. (2003) Practical Skills in Biology. 3rd Edition Prentice Hall
Or  Jones, A., Duck, R., Reed, R., Weyers, J. (2000 ) Practical Skills in Environmental Sciences Ist Edition Prentice Hall .

An arrangement has been negotiated with Pearson Publishers so that students can purchase the BIO1CB text (Cambell and Reece, Biology, Pearson) and either one of the SCI1LS texts (chosen with regard to their intended degree) at a cost which represents a substantial saving.

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