Honours in the School of Molecular Bioscience - Guidelines for 2013-2014

Honours Orientation Day for mid-year students: Tuesday 6 August 2013, 9:30am - 4:00pm.

NB. The information below is for Research Honours students only. If you are a Clinical Honours student please click here for more information.

I. Course Summary

For the award of Honours, students must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. Attend the series of introductory lectures and safety training sessions.
  2. Attend the School of Molecular Bioscience Seminar Program and talks by fellow Honours students (this includes the project proposal talks and final seminars). Students may also be required to attend other lectures, seminars, or courses suggested by their supervisors or the Honours Committee.
  3. Present a written project proposal.
  4. Present a brief proposal talk.
  5. Carry out a research project supervised by one or more staff members.
  6. Prepare a literature review.
  7. Participate in a series of tutorials on biostatistics
  8. Participate in a series of tutorials on the critical evaluation of literature.
  9. Present an oral critical evaluation of a scientific publication.
  10. Sit a written exam on critical evaluation.
  11. Make a mid-year research progress presentation.
  12. Present a thesis based on their research project.
  13. Deliver a final talk on that project.
  14. Attend an oral examination on the thesis.
  15. Make corrections to their thesis, where necessary, and submit the corrected thesis.

The Honours year requires a fulltime commitment and students should consider this when planning their study program.

II. Details of the course

HONOURS GROUPS / PANELS
During the Honours year each student will be assigned to a group consisting of ~8 students who are undertaking research projects in related areas. Placement in groups will be based on the subject matter of the Honours project (as described in the written Project Proposal [see below]) and the research interests of the Supervisor. Panels of academics with corresponding expertise will be associated with each Honours group. These will be chaired by the Honours Committee:

Molecular Biology and Genetics – Dr Hannah Nicholas / Ms Vanessa Gysbers
Structural Biology and Physical Biochemistry – Prof Jacqui Matthews
Biotechnology and Proteomics – Dr Melanie White
Microbiology – Dr Tim Newsome
Nutrition and Metabolism – Dr Kim Bell-Anderson

The panels will mentor the students within their group (discuss progress, problems, etc.) facilitate the coursework component of the year, and oversee assessment for their group.

SAFETY TRAINING
In addition to the basic safety orientation which forms part of the Honours Orientation day, Honours students are required to participate in the following safety training programs:

  1. “Working with chemicals”: students are required to independently register for one of the training sessions run by the University of Sydney’s Work Health and Safety unit.
  2. “Biosafety training”: students are required to independently register for one of the training sessions run by the University of Sydney’s Work Health and Safety unit.
  3. Any additional training as required for the research project. This may include training in animal handling or radiation training.

TASK 1: PROJECT PROPOSAL

WRITTEN PROJECT PROPOSAL (approx. 1000 words, not including references)
Each student will prepare a project proposal, which should include:

  • The aims, significance and background of the project, including an indication of the relationship of the project to the work of others, citing key references, and some discussion of the methods and techniques to be used.
  • A timeline for the proposed research.

Students should submit 2 hard copies of their project proposal to the Academic Support office located on Level 4 of the Molecular Bioscience Building, by 5pm, Monday 25 February 2013. An electronic copy should also be submitted in pdf format via email to the Chair of the Honours Committee () by the same deadline.

PROJECT PROPOSAL TALK (10 minutes plus questions)
Each student will present a brief talk on Wednesday 27 February or Thursday 28 February or Friday 1 March 2013 detailing the background of their project and the experimental work they intend to undertake.

Feedback from the Project Proposal and talk will be provided to students and their supervisors from the relevant Honours Panel. Task 1 is not provided a mark, but will be assessed as either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. Students may be asked to resubmit their proposal if unsatisfactory performance is noted.

TASK 2 (COURSE WORK)

BIOSTATISTICS
Students will attend a short series of tutorials on Biostatistics. Although there will be no formal assessment during these Biostatistics tutorials, an understanding of the presented material will be relevant for the tutorials on the critical evaluation of scientific literature and for the coursework examination (see below).

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE

TUTORIALS (participation in 6 tutorials)
Students will attend an introductory tutorial on the critical evaluation of scientific literature conducted by the Honours Committee. In the subsequent 5 weeks, students will each lead a discussion based on the evaluation of a published manuscript. Students will be mentored in this activity by their academic group leaders. All students will be required to read the papers prior to the tutorial and contribute to discussions. Assessment (10% of the final Honours mark) will be based on the preparation/presentation (3%, see “tutorial facilitation” below) and participation (7%) in the group discussions.

TUTORIAL FACILITATION (45 minute presentation and discussion)
Each student will present a critical evaluation of a scientific publication to their Honours group and members of the associated academic Honours panel. In this presentation the student is expected to demonstrate an understanding of the content of the article and relevant background material, evaluate the results, assess the importance of the findings and generate a discussion among their peers.

EXAMINATION (written examination)
Following the critical evaluation tutorials, students will sit a written examination to assess their ability to critically evaluate a scientific publication in a field related to their coursework tutorials. Supporting material may be provided to students one week in advance of the examination. The examination is worth 15% of the final Honours mark.

TASK 3: MID-YEAR PROGRESS PRESENTATION

Students will be required to make a mid-year presentation to academics from their Honours panel. The format of this presentation will be defined by the panel, but is likely to consist of a short report or short presentation (10 minutes), and discussion. This task is not assessed. It is designed for students to discuss progress, flag any unforeseen problems and receive feedback and advice.

TASK 4: THESIS

The preparation of the thesis, both in its format and its content, is an important part of the training of an Honours student and should be planned with the advice of the Supervisor. Students are advised that thesis writing is very time-consuming and are urged to allocate at least six weeks for this task.

To assist in preparation of the thesis, students are advised to prepare data figures and write up methods throughout the year. They are also required to submit a literature review to their supervisor by Friday 26 April 2013. The literature review will form the basis for the “Introduction” chapter of the thesis. A mark will not be provided for the literature review, but it will be assessed as either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. Feedback will be provided by the supervisor.

The thesis should be intelligible to students and staff members working in other fields. The basis of deductions from experimental data should be clearly and succinctly explained. Readers should not need to refer to the original literature to assess the soundness of conclusions drawn from the data. The thesis should not be longer than 12000 words (including abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and associated figure legends, but excluding titles, acknowledgements, table of contents, list of abbreviations, references and appendices).

Materials and methods are should be presented succinctly. They should follow in the style of a relevant publication in the field; standard methods can be presented with reference to the literature while any alterations to such methods should be included in sufficient detail that the experiment could be repeated.

Additional material which the student wishes to include may be presented in appendices (but all essential material should be included in the core 12000 words). This should include raw data where appropriate. Non-standard abbreviations should be defined, and should be kept to a minimum (standard abbreviations do not need to be defined). Referencing should follow the format used by a relevant scientific journal and the titles of papers, year, volume, and first and last page numbers should be quoted. A list of figures does not need to be provided. Note that the University crest must not be used on theses until they have passed examination.

The thesis should have the following general format:

  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Appendices (if required)

The font used should be either Times New Roman, Helvetica, Calibri or Arial, 12pt. Line spacing should be 1.5. The thesis should be printed double-sided. A pro-forma cover page will be provided which must be completed. This page will include a word count.

The complete thesis must be submitted in electronic form (pdf) to the Chair of the Honours committee by 5pm, Thursday 24 October 2013. Students can either email the thesis to Dr Hannah Nicholas () or use the University’s large file transfer facility called Cloudstor.

In addition to the electronic version, 3 hard copies of the thesis should be submitted in a temporary binding (such as comb binding or heat binding) to the SMB Academic Support Office, located on Level 4 of the Molecular Bioscience Building by 10am, Friday 25 October 2013. The student should also keep a hard copy of the thesis for use at the oral examination.

Please note that if either the pdf or the hard copies of the thesis are not received by the specified deadlines, a mark penalty will be incurred. The penalty will be a 2% reduction per day from the final Honours mark.

The thesis will be assessed by 3 examiners from the relevant Honours panel (or a member co-opted due to specific expertise in the area of the project), 1 of whom will be the Supervisor.

In assessing the thesis, the examiners consider:

  1. the definition of the problem;
  2. the quality and interpretation of the data and the amount of work that has gone into generating the data;
  3. the validity of the conclusions;
  4. the degree to which independent thought has been involved;
  5. the general understanding of the scientific principles underlying the problem, and its possible ramifications;
  6. English expression, layout and general presentation of the thesis.
    The thesis mark of the Supervisor will also be influenced by the following criteria in assessing the student's performance:
    a) interest and dedication to the project;
    b) efficiency, accuracy and reliability of experimentation;
    c) familiarity with the relevant research literature;
    d) interpretation of results;
    e) design of experiments;
    f) formulation and communication of ideas;
    g) the process of thesis writing;
    h) development of independence.

Please see below ‘Range of marks in assessment’ for further details on marking criteria.

Following the oral examination (see below) students will be provided with a list of suggested thesis amendments. Amendments should be made to the satisfaction of the Honours supervisor. The final amended version of the thesis must be submitted to the Honours coordinator in pdf format by email or large file transfer by 5pm on Friday 22 November 2013 and a hard-bound copy must also be presented to the supervisor by this time. Note that a University crest may be included in this final thesis. A promo forma coversheet for the final thesis, which includes the crest, will be provided.

THESIS TALK (20 minutes plus questions)
Each student will present a talk explaining the background to and logic of their research project, the details of the project and the most important conclusions. Concise delivery of scientific material is essential and time limits will be strictly enforced. It is also important that students are able to defend their approach and conclusions during the question time after their presentation.

The thesis talk will be marked by a panel composed of at least one member of each Honours panel. The talk will be assessed on the following criteria: quality of presentation, overall design and structure of the talk, scientific context and understanding, answers to questions.

ORAL EXAMINATION (usually around 30 minutes)
Each student will attend an oral examination on the work presented in the thesis and any related material that the examiners consider relevant. These discussions will be conducted by the students’ thesis examiners and another member of the Honours panel (or a member co-opted due to specific expertise in the area of the project).

The thesis and oral examination are used together to determine the overall mark to a value of 60% of the final Honours mark. The thesis talk is worth 15% of the final Honours mark.

III. Assessment

1. Summary of assessment

                    Component

% of total assessment

Number of assessors

Coursework: critical evaluation of scientific literature

          - tutorial participation and contribution

          - tutorial presentation

          - examination

 

7

3

15

 

Honours panel

Honours panel

2 + Panel

Research, thesis and oral examination

60

Honours panel

Thesis talk

15

5


2. Range of marks in assessment

The University grades final Honours results according to the following scale:

 Standard  Assessment range %
 HI

 80-100

 HII, Division 1

 75-79

 HII, Division 2

 70-74

 HIII

 65-69

 Not of Honours standard

 0-64

Interim feedback to students may also be given according to the traditional scale, HD 85-100, D 75-84, Cr 65-74, P 50-64.

The following should be used as a guide for assessment quality of the Honours year:

95-100: This mark should be reserved for a student who has been outstanding in all aspects of their research. Such a student must have shown initiative and originality in their planning and execution of experiments, and independence in the analysis of results and the writing of their thesis. The mark should be reserved for students that one would confidently expect to be in the top 5% of students in any of the world's leading universities. These students will have shown such a dedication to and capacity for conducting and communicating research that one expects they will be leaders in science in the future. Equivalent to an H1 and clear University Medal standard.

90-94: This range should be reserved for students who have shown the highest ability but may not have performed at the top of the range in all of the categories above. This mark should identify students in the top 10% of Honours students. A possible University Medal standard.

85-89: This mark is appropriate for a student whose research performance indicates that they are capable of undertaking and completing an excellent PhD. Such students would be expected to have excelled in certain categories, for instance a-g. Top 20%. A strong H1 standard.

80-84: This mark should be reserved for a student who has done well in all aspects of their research and is clearly of an H1 standard. Such a student should have excelled in most categories, for instance a-f.

75-79: This mark should be reserved for a student who has done a good job in their research and is a capable and effective scientist. Such a student should have excelled in several of the categories, for instance a-e. HII, Division 1 standard.

70-74: This mark should be reserved for a student who has performed admirably their research and has excelled in several categories, such as a-d. HII, Division 2 standard.

65-69: This mark should be reserved for a student whose all-round Honours performance has been such that they have shown themselves capable and enthusiastic researchers. Such students may have excelled in some categories. HIII Honours standard.

50-64: This mark is reserved for students who have struggled during the year and have shown a limited aptitude for research. Such students are likely to have performed well in categories a. and b. but not at a standard sufficient for the award of an Honours degree.

IV. Other Information

Any requests for special consideration, appeals or questions on assessment should be lodged with the Chair of the Honours committee in writing. These will be considered by the Honours Committee and the Head of School. Applications for special consideration must be made in accordance with Faculty of Science policy.

(http://sydney.edu.au/science/cstudent/ug/forms/special_cons.shtml).

Following completion of all assessment tasks, the Honours Committee will meet to consider the provisional marks provided by Honours panels and will make recommendations on final marks to the Head of School and the Faculty of Science Honours Board of Examiners.

Please note: Undergraduate aggregate marks are used to ensure uniform marking across the Faculty, and therefore, School marks may be scaled to meet Faculty requirements.

The Faculty of Science generates the SCIWAM as follows:

WAM = sum (Wi x Mi)/sum (Wi)

Where Mi is the mark obtained in course ‘i’ and the weight Wi is obtained by multiplying the unit value of the course by 2 for intermediate courses and by 3 for senior courses (results from junior units are not used in the calculation of the SCIWAM).

Unless special circumstances apply, the minimum qualification for the award of a University Medal is a SCIWAM of 80 or greater and a fourth year mark of 90 or greater. The Faculty of Science also requires evidence of sustained excellence (including prizes, awards, publications and other supporting information) to be provided by the School in support of the Award of a Medal.

For the purpose of assigning Australian Postgraduate Awards, the fourth year mark out of 100 is multiplied by 1.3 and the SCIWAM by 0.7 and the total is used in the ranking.

V. Schedule and Due Dates

Semester 2 entry 2013

Date

Event

2013

Tuesday 6 August

Honours commences

9:45am: overview of the Honours year, computer systems, introduction to SMB

afternoon: begin full-time work with your supervisor

Monday 19 August

2 hard copies of project proposal to be handed in to School office and electronic copy to be submitted to Chair of Honours Committee by 5pm

Thursday 22 August

Project proposal talks

Monday 11 November

Submit literature review to supervisor

2014

January

Progress presentation to discipline panel

Thursday 1 May

Electronic copy of thesis (pdf) to be submitted to Chair of Honours Committee by 5pm

Friday 2 May

3 hard copies of thesis (temporary binding) to be submitted to School office by 10am

Tuesday 14 May

Thesis talk and oral examination

Friday 30 May

Corrected thesis due

Honours coursework

Monday 28 April

Coursework introductory tutorial: critical evaluation of scientific literature

Monday 5 May – 3 June

Coursework weekly tutorials

Tuesday 10 June

Coursework examination

 

Semester 1 entry 2014

Date

Event

Wednesday 12 February

Honours commences

9.45am Common room (for 10am start)

Welcome, computer systems, laboratory safety, scientific presentations, overview of the honours year

Thursday 13 February

10am-12pm SciTech library training

Information Literacy Training (Group 1)

Afternoon: begin fulltime work with your supervisor

Friday 14 February

10am-12pm SciTech library training

Information Literacy Training (Group 2)

Monday  24 February

Project proposal to be handed in to School office

Wednesday 26 February – Friday 28 February

Project proposal talks

Friday 25 April

Submit literature review to supervisor

Monday 28 April

Coursework introductory tutorial: critical evaluation of scientific literature

Monday 5 May – 3 June

Coursework weekly tutorials, presentation of critical evaluation of a research paper

Tuesday 10 June

Coursework examination

July-August

Progress presentation to Honours panel

Thursday 23 October

Electronic copy of thesis (pdf) to be submitted to Chair of Honours Committee by 5pm

Friday 24 October

3 hard copies of thesis (temporary binding) to be submitted to SMB Academic Support Office by 10am

Monday 3 November – Wednesday 5 November

Thesis talks

Thursday 6 and Friday 7 November

Oral examinations

Friday 21 November

Corrected thesis due