UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Research Skills

Course Code
Level M
Credits 15
Module Tutor
Dr Mike Sulu
Written 60%
Assessment 40%


The course aims to provide a large cohort of Year 1 MRes and doctoral students with the required generic research skills and communication tools to ensure students are well prepared for their project and/or doctoral degree. The course is structured in four blocks of lectures, each block corresponding to a theme. 

Students will be give an overview of the critical aspects of the research process e.g. literature review, thesis and paper writing skills, empirical research and other elements derived from the Vitae researcher development framework

Health and Safety:

  • gain a knowledge and understanding of safe working practices within the laboratory and the department
  • understand the necessity and methods used to create risk a risk assessment
  • familiarize with working practices related to good laboratory practice and experimental data collection.

Doctoral training research skills:

  • gain a knowledge and understanding of the team working skills needed to facilitate effective research, including networking, team working and communication skills
  • develop an appreciation and understanding of descriptive and inferential statistics to include common probability distributions, the calculation of confidence intervals and deducing conclusions from hypothesis test; this should give the students the required knowledge to pose research questions.
  • The Scientific Method and ethics:
  • introduce the fundamentals of the scientific method, experimentation, verification and investigation
  • develop an appreciation of research ethics, funding and plagiarism issues. In addition, an understanding of the intellectual property laws that governs both their specific projects and the field of Biochemical Engineering as a whole would be discussed.
  • Specialist optional training:
  • develop the advanced knowledge and skills necessary to run independently a selected technical equipment, to be familiar with new technology or methodology.


Theme 1 Health, safety and good laboratory practice. 

Students will be taught health and safety regulations and will be given the opportunity to strictly follow guidelines for laboratory work.

They will attend a Safety briefing/ induction that covers the necessity for and the practical aspect of conducting a risk Assessment evaluation and GMO Training. In addition they will be taught how to keep an effective Lab book to facilitate data collection and recording and general lab maintenance in accordance with good laboratory practice 

Theme 2 Library and communication skills.

In this section students will learn about the use of databases and they will familiarize with the library facilities that can support their research. Academic paper writing and Thesis writing (Harvard referencing etc.) are core skill that will be taught within this course in the context of scientific field. Students will also be provided with some lectures on team working, networking, communication skills and statistics (inferential and descriptive) and will have the opportunity to apply these skills with hands-on activities.

Theme 3 The Scientific Method and Ethics

Students will have lectures on research skills (as an example, how to set a research question and hypothesis, how to correctly define aim and objectives for a specific project, etc.). Fundamental concepts around intellectual property and how to protect it, as well as on discipline-specific ethics will be provided, with particular focus on Synthetic Biology Ethics.

Theme 4 Specialist optional training. 

Students will select one advanced laboratory-based sessions among those offered. These are session currently run in the department by academics or Research&Facility team and sometimes by external experts.

Examples include: 

  • Programming/coding  
  • Lab equipment usage (HPLC etc.)
  • Pilot scale equipment usage
  • Tecan training/ automation
  • Microscopy and image analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Synthetic biology tools / cell engineering
  • CAD/ Product design course, for RDFF integration, Equipment design/ P&ID
  • Other specific courses may be available but will depend on sourcing expertise to deliver them, or on the procurement of new pieces of equipment.

Workload - Total 150 hours comprising

  • Lectures 42 hrs
  • Private reading 10 hrs
  • Seminars/ problem classes / tutorials 30 hrs (Group Meetings)
  • Laboratory / Studio 40 hrs
  • Required written work 10 hrs
  • Revision 8 hrs (Revision for Statistics Exam)
  • E-learning/tutor led contact 2 hrs (Risk Assessment)
  • Other 8 hrs (Safety, Risk Assessment, Lab book keeping, GMO)


Written coursework (abstract writing) 10% 200 words max

Written coursework (social media) 10% 200 words max

In class Test (statistics) 20% 2 hours

Written coursework (Essay –scientific method) 20% 1500 words max

Written coursework (Risk assessment) 10% 200 words

Written coursework (Poster presentation) 10%

Specialist training Assessment 20%