Biological Research Week

In my second year of BSc Genetics (but also in other biological sciences degrees such as biology, human biology, ecology and conservation, biotechnology) during the core module of research methods, research week occurred. The largest assessed portion of research methods is centered around this week of research – specifically the proposal and poster part of the week, but we’ll get to them.

Research week starts before it actually begins. Once a partner has been found, someone you’re willing to potentially spend a lot of time with and definitely spend a lot of time working with, you must decide upon your topic of research. Since the project is only meant to span a week, it’s not going to be groundbreaking research. Hopefully, you and your partner have similar academic interests, or one of you is going to be more interested in the project than the other. Thankfully, our lecturers are not short of ideas for research if you’re struggling to pin down a research question that’ll fit your timeframe. Since myself and my partner are interested in ecology, we ended up doing a project on morphometrics – “the quantitative measurement of the form especially of living systems or their parts.” Specifically, we measured morphometric variation across urban populations. Other groups studied the calorific content of food, micromineral production of microbes, and squirrel behaviour, to name a few.

The first assessed section of research week is the proposal (no, not the 2009 People’s Choice Award rom-com nominee). The proposal is a document you must submit before your research begins, detailing your topic and research question, ethical considerations, health & safety, as well as any requirements such as lab time, transport, or equipment. Also to be included is a timescale, which can be neatly presented in a Gantt chart.

The actual research portion of my project went fairly well. At times the sheer amount of work ahead of us was pretty daunting – particularly in actually finding the species of plant we were sampling – but in the end, everything worked out fine. There’s something oddly satisfying about measuring the various aspects of a leaf’s shape… eighty times…

If there’s anything I garnered from the week, it’s that things never go according to plan. Because of the mild winter, our initial species wasn’t flowering during the week of our research, forcing us to rethink our topic and ultimately change species. Also, when analysing our data, we also found that our hypothesis was actually the complete opposite of what we found to be the truth. This wasn’t a problem, however, as the prime goal of research week is to get you accustomed to proper scientific technique and give you the experience of completing your own research.

Another key learning point of research week was the conference experience – producing your own poster from your research and presenting it amongst your peers. If you have a passion for graphic design, then you will enjoy formatting your poster in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing way – I certainly enjoyed the challenge of organising our research to highlight the key points and figures in the best way I could.


2 Replies to “Biological Research Week”

  1. Hi, thanks for the post. I heard a little about this at the applicant visit day. Im interested in the genetics side, are there much exam based modules if any? Also with the poster presentations do you also do this in first and 3rd year and again would it be in a group or solo? I like the idea of doing the poster and then talking aboutit in that sort of setting. What advice would you give for a new first year 2017?

    1. Nice to hear you’re interested in the genetics side since that’s my focus too! I’ll give you a rundown of the current set up of BSc Genetics and exams.

      First year: All biology courses have the same modules in First Year, many of which have exams – as preparation for the modules that have exams in the following years. Second Year: Of the four compulsory modules for genetics, two have exams. There are two additional modules that must be picked and could have exams or could not. Third Year: Again, there are four compulsory modules, but this time only three have exams (the fourth being the dissertation), leaving one additional module up to choice. More info on modules can be found here.

      Currently, poster evening is limited to Second Year. In First Year, there are a few presentations (powerpoint-style) that are completed as group work, where you may be asked a handful of questions at the end. In Third Year, there will also be a solo presentation as part of the Dissertation.

      For course advice, it’s pretty stock stuff I’m afraid! Keep good notes (or re-write them after lecture), you’ll be grateful for them when it’s time to revise. Complete presentations ahead of the deadline so you have time to practice them. As for general advice, join societies, and have fun! First Year can be very much about finding your feet, so making friends with like-minded people is never a bad shout. Hope this helps, and good luck!

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