Practical classes

In the first year all practicals are compulsory. They will not necessarily be linked to lectures, but will focus on providing practical skills relevant to modern biology, from the cellular and molecular to the ecological and taxonomic. There will be a one-week residential field course to West Wales (Orielton Field Studies Centre near Pembroke) in the summer term. Here, living organisms (including staff and students) are studied in a range of environments, both terrestrial and marine. Students are assessed on their practical work (satisfactory or not), which forms part of the first year examinations (so-called Honour Moderations). In the second year, six practical modules are available, of which students must chose at least three. Each module is a skills based set of four, three-hour practical sessions, combining lab, field and/or computer activities as appropriate. As with the first year, these practicals are assessed and student are expected to achieve a high level of satisfactory grades. The six module topics are as follows : • Biodiversity Survey & Analysis • Experimental Evolution • Infectious Disease Control • Molecular & Cellular Techniques • Observations & Experiments in Behaviour • Plant Adaptations - Wild & Domesticated

Course Assignments

During their third year all undergraduates undertake one extended essay or another piece of written work, and one oral presentation of 15 minutes (plus a written abstract). There is complete freedom to choose the appropriate topic, and any subject within the areas covered or touched upon by any of the modules is eligible, but the format of the assignment will be specified by the particular theme.

The Honours Project

All undergraduates undertake a research project during their second and third years, supervised by a member of academic staff, which contributes to the degree assessment. The topic may be the student's own idea or one chosen from suggestions by members of the departments. Students carry out practical research, either in the lab or field, analyse data using rigorous scientific method and conventions, and write a report. The level expected is similar to early stage graduate work and the results from many of these projects have been published in scientific journals – an early chance to get into print! The breadth of topics is vast; examples in the recent past range from how embryonic cells differentiate into nerve cells, to the number of fish on a coral reef.

Field Courses

The first year field course to Pembrokeshire has been mentioned above; it is the practical component of the Ecology course, and introduces (or reintroduces) students to the ecology of woodlands, sand dunes, rocky shores, sea cliffs and grasslands. In the third year, students may choose to attend one or even two overseas field courses, each one making up a specialist option. One course goes to the Canary Island of Tenerife in early May, and studies the systematics, diversity and ecology of the local plant communities. The other field course concerns tropical rainforest ecology, both animals and plants, and is based at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah (N.E. Borneo). This course takes place in late September, at the end of the long vacation between the second and third years. The two overseas courses have to limited to no more than 25 students per course, and so competitions have run based on academic performance to decide who can attend. Note that the University covers the costs of the compulsory first year field course to Pembrokeshire. The optional third year field courses are not free, i.e. students have to be charged extra for attending.

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