Undergraduate Course 4480E/4483E/4485E/4970E


1. Course Information


Course number:
Anatomy & Cell Biology 4480E/4483E/4485E/4970E (formerly 480E)

Course Name:
Research Project and Seminar Course

4483E PROJECT CO-ORDINATORS (Biochemistry):
Dr. Hong Ling (Room 334 MSB) (hling4@uwo.ca)

4970E PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR  (Microbiology & Immunology):
Dr. Tom Linn (Room 3013 Dental Sciences Bldg) (tlinn@uwo.ca)

4480E PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR (Biochemistry & Cell Biology):
Dr. P. Walton, Dept of Anatomy & Cell Biology (Room 474 MSB) (pwalton@uwo.ca )

4485E PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR (Clinical Biochemistry):
Dr. Hong Ling


Research Project and Seminar Course: The Cornerstone Course for the Honors program:
Up to now you have learned to be intelligent consumers of science by attending lectures, by reading about others findings, and by carrying out structured exercises in student labs. The Research Project and Seminar course puts you in a much more active scientific role. You will be working in close collaboration with a faculty supervisor and other lab members. You will learn to generate hypotheses, develop strategies to test them, and to critically evaluate your work. Finally, you will communicate your results both orally and in writing. This handout is intended to help you plan to do this in the most effective way.

How is the Research Project and Seminar Course organized?
The course is jointly administered by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the Department of Biochemistry, and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Together we organize the placements, scheduling, and seminars. Students in either program can select a supervisor in any of these Departments. Early September is devoted to orientation sessions, and the projects are carried out between late September and mid-March.

Choosing your supervisor:
We expect that you have looked over the available projects and have selected 4 or 5 that interest you most. Read any references provided, and check out the supervisor's web site for other information. Make an appointment for an interview (generally by email), and come prepared to ask good questions. It is a good idea to bring a short resume, listing employment experience and courses taken (marks are not required). Be candid and realistic about your future educational and career objectives.
The nature of the project and the "culture" of the lab will influence your "preferred list" of supervisors. Labs vary in size and some supervisors are closely involved with their project students on a day‑to‑day basis, while others expect more independence. High quality experiences are possible in all of these environments, so the interview process will help you and the supervisor to make wise choices. Be sure to meet the various individuals with whom you will work. Supervisors invest a great deal of their time, energy, and funding in your training. Your energy, dedication, and enthusiasm could possibly result in co-authorship on a scientific paper. Furthermore, your supervisor will be the most influential reference source as you apply for graduate or professional school or for a job.

The matching process:
After you have interviewed potential supervisors, you will indicate to us ONLINE your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice of supervisor. Students must submit their rankings by Friday, September 14th, 4 PM. Supervisors will also give us their ranked list of students. First we will pair off the "one‑one" matches. This usually places more than half the class. The remaining students are usually placed in a 2‑1 or 1‑2 situation. By virtue of the matching process, it is always necessary for some supplementary interviews for students that do not match in the first round. If this becomes necessary for you, we will let you know as soon as possible, and will present you with a list of alternative choices. Also, your academic marks are not a factor here. The playing field is even, and it is the well-prepared, inquisitive student who has the edge. The list of placements will be emailed on Friday, September 21st.

Summer projects:
If you have worked in one of the labs on a summer project, we encourage you to work in a different lab for the Honors project in order to broaden your experience. If however you do continue in the same lab, it is required that you provide us in September with a one to two page summary of the results obtained during the summer. Both you and your supervisor must sign this. In this way all students are judged at the end of the year on what was actually accomplished during the school year.

Work-Study Students:
Students may not carry out a Research Project and a work-study placement in the same laboratory.

Expectations in the lab:
The laboratory placement begins on Monday, September 23rd. You are expected to devote Monday-Friday afternoons (average of 15 hours/week) to your project, either working in the lab or reading or preparing presentations. You are not permitted to work in the lab unsupervised in the evening or on weekends. Do not schedule other courses during this time. You will learn to work responsibly and with confidence with dangerous substances, and the mandatory training sessions will aid you in this.

Introduce yourself to people in the lab. Learn how things are done and take notes while you are learning. Most labs have a regular time for meetings, and you should plan to become a regular participant. In this way you will more rapidly become part of the group and see how your project fits into the group.

Reading, literature reviews, and keeping track of references:
You will want to read extensively in order to plan good experiments and to be able to interpret them within the context of your field. Many search engines can help you do this effectively. Tools such as RefWorks, Reference Manager or EndNote are invaluable when it comes time to write your final report.

Mock OGS application:
Scientists and trainees often must apply for grants and awards to support themselves and their research. As an Introduction to this part of scientific life, students will complete a practice application for an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS).  This will involve filling out an application form and submitting it to your supervisor; it will be worth 2% of your mark.  Of course, an actual application may be submitted to the appropriate Department, if desired.

Oral presentations:
The first presentation is on Friday, October 25th. Concurrent sessions will be held. We will try to schedule related topics in the same room. Therefore, there will be some student exchanges between programs. For example, students from Biochemistry take projects from labs at M&I will make presentation at M&I groups with M&I students and faculty. The talks are short (10 minutes for your talk and 5 for questions). The presentation time schedule will be strict, so plan and rehearse your presentation well. Use about one third of the time for the background, then develop your hypothesis, and then use the rest of the time to describe your experimental approach. Few people have much data at this stage. Speak slowly and clearly. Try not to read your talk. Eyeball your audience.  Students typically use Powerpoint for their presentations, but transparencies are acceptable. Uncluttered visuals are best. Use at least 20 point fonts.  A projector and computer will be available in each room. You can run your presentation from either the computer in the room using a USB drive or by attaching your laptop computer. Have your presentation loaded onto the computer well before the session begins so you don't use up your time loading the presentation at the last minute. Time your talk. First practice alone, then with your peers, and then with your supervisor/lab group. Make it understandable and interesting so that it engenders good questions.

You may switch between rooms, but are required to attend all sessions, and this will be documented. Failure to attend the oral presentations will results in a loss of 2% per day. It is very bad form to slide in just before your own presentation or to leave just after it! Everyone has worked hard on these and everyone deserves a good audience. You will be evaluated separately by peers and faculty. Evaluate your peers thoughtfully and constructively. Save the "10's" for a really outstanding performance.

The final presentations will be on Friday, April 4th.  These presentations will be longer (30 minutes total, with 20 minutes for your talk and 10 minutes for questions).  You can condense your introduction and spend more time on your data. The professors who have read your report should attend your final presentation and will be asking questions.

You will be marked on:         
Experimental content
Presentation skills
Response to questions

Written reports:
A written Introduction is due to your supervisor by the end of December.  This should be up to 3 pages long (double spaced) plus references. It should provide an introduction to your project, state your hypothesis, and summarize experimental approach. This Introduction and your progress to date in the lab will contribute to your December evaluation (8%) by your supervisor.

Final reports are due on Monday, March 31st, 2014 in the Biochemistry office. Late reports will lose 10% per day up to 3 days. Reports will not be accepted if more than 3 days late. They are to be written as a manuscript for a scientific paper. Choose an appropriate journal model and use the appropriate format for inclusion of figures and references. Prepare the figures and tables first and then organize your story. You should be thinking about figures as you design experiments so that the appropriate controls are included. With the relevant figures in hand, you can then write the Results section. The figures and tables can be incorporated in situ. In the Materials and Methods sections you must include each procedure, but this can be done by citing the appropriate reference and briefly describing any modifications you used. The Introduction should provide enough background so that the reader can understand and evaluate your results. In the Discussion you will be presenting the principles and generalizations supported by the results. Point out any exceptions or lack of correlation and try to define any remaining unsettled points. State your conclusions and summarize your evidence for each of them.

You should have your supervisor read over your paper and get feedback on presentation of your data and arguments. He or she will need some time for this, so plan to give them a first draft at least 2 weeks before the due date. It is not your supervisor's job to fine-tune your writing style, but s/he can give good feedback on the science. When submitting this and future papers, it is in your interest to get feedback from colleagues. The paper itself is your responsibility. It will be marked by two faculty members other than your supervisor.

The research project will differ markedly from your experience with courses. Although (usually) the techniques and hypothesis are refined, the work has not been done before, and the results may be unexpected! A "negative results" project which is carefully done still provides important information to the supervisor and an excellent educational experience for the student. When well written and presented these projects can receive an excellent evaluation.

If problems arise, discuss them as soon as possible with the appropriate course coordinator.

Your Honors year will go quickly. You will be wise to start planning for graduate or professional school in early September. We will provide you with timely information on applying for fellowships and graduate school, and you should take every opportunity to speak with your professors and project supervisor for advice on where to apply. The better they know you and your ambitions, the more effective letters they can write!

Basis for Evaluation

Mock OGS application                                                                                                 2

October Oral presentation                                                      (Faculty - 6)                   8
              10 minutes for talk, 5 minutes for questions             (Students - 2)

March Oral Presentation
              20 minutes for talk, 10 minutes for questions           (Faculty - 9)                 12
                                                                                                (Students - 3)

Laboratory work (December –8%)                                                                               8
(Introduction to project write up marked by supervisor, effort,
understanding, initiative, intellectual contribution through
reading and independent thought, performance, as evaluated
by supervisor with possible input from others in the lab)

Laboratory work (April – 20%)                                                                                     20
(Effort, understanding, initiative, intellectual contribution
through reading and independent thought, performance, as
evaluated by supervisor with possible input from others in the lab)

Written Report (Marked by two faculty, 25 marks each)                                               50

Report Evaluation

Two independent readers will be assigned to evaluate the written report. Two complete copies of the written report are required by the due date.

Writing Guidelines

1) Choose a journal format:
            i) Journal of Biological Chemistry
            ii) ASM journals (e.g. Journal of Bacteriology, Journal of Virology)

2) Length ~ 20 - 30 pages including figures, integrate the figures into the text (don't put all the figures at the end of the report).

3) Start by assembling your data into Figures and/or Tables. Clearly indicate in Figure Legends what lanes are what, include labeled controls.

4) Write the Results section first (doing so tells you what to put in the Materials & Methods). It may be useful to have sub-headings in the Results section.

5) Write the Material & Methods section next (don't explain all the details of a method if it has been previously published (or is a purchased kit), just use a sentence or two to explain the basic principle, then quote the reference).

6) Then write the Introduction. Start "broad" and then narrow down to what you did.

7) Finally write the Discussion and Abstract.  Explain what your results mean in the context of the system you are working on.  If experiments didn't work well, speculate why they didn't and suggest what could be changed. 

8) References Include the titles of the articles. 

9) Include Acknowledgments and number the pages.

A more detailed discussion on preparing your reports will be presented in February.