• Class Number 3369
  • Term Code 3130
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 to 12 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Spencer Whitney
    • Prof Spencer Whitney
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 22/02/2021
  • Class End Date 28/05/2021
  • Census Date 31/03/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 01/03/2021
SELT Survey Results

The course is a specific research project under the supervision of a research scientist at ANU or at an affiliated research institute.  Students identify a supervisor after discussion with the course convener.

It may be performed in a research laboratory or involve field or library research under the supervision of a research scientist. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Plan and engage in an independent investigation of a chosen research topic supervised by an academic
  2. Systematically identify relevant theory and concepts from the literature, relate these to appropriate methodologies and evidence, and draw appropriate conclusions
  3. Understand and apply relevant research techniques and methods including data collection and analysis
  4. Communicate concepts and results clearly and effectively both in writing and orally

Research-Led Teaching

This course is specially tailored for students attracted to, or wondering about research. Students are immersed in a real research environment and in the practice of research. Each student is integrated in a research team of his/her chosing and gets direct experience in core components of research activities, from posing a question, defining hypotheses to address it, deciding on the appropriate approaches to examine these hypotheses; analyse the data, rigorously present and interpret them, and most importantly discuss them critically in the context of the current body of knowledge in the area. Students are experiencing first-hand the joys and tribulations of probing the unknown, the drive, curiosity, discipline, and perseverance this requires. A huge diversity of projects is available, across the university, in any topic in biology, or at the interface of biology and physics, or chemistry, mathematics, bioinformatics, ethics and genetic counselling.

Field Trips

There may be one or more short field trips in ecology research projects, but the vast majority of projects are locally based on campus at ANU or within the ACT.


Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • feedback on the seminar, during the seminar day itself, in the form of questions from examiners, convenors, peer students, anyone in the audience, followed by a collective debriefing short session at the end of the day with the convenor..
  • feedback on report provided once final marks have been released on an individual basis, in writing or in person if required
  • individual one-to-one feedback during the course, on appointement with convenor, on any query or issue the student wants to raise

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

This course consists in a real research project, carried out in a real laboratory, or in some cases in hospitals, where there are strict safety rules and requirements, including on ethics. Some of those may require students to undergo specific training. This is discussed and organised at the outset when students discuss with prospective supervisors.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Activities will depend on the research project This can be taken as a variable unit depending on the conceptual difficulty and research orientation as arranged between the student, convenor and supervisor before enrolling. The research project will normally be completed within the semester of enrolment. The expected workload for the 6 unit course is approximately 65 hours of laboratory or fieldwork plus 150 hours of individual work, including preparation of a report (up to 9000 word)s. Seminar about 2 weeks before end of the term of the course. The Research paper and the Progress record (electronic or hardcopy record of research activities) is due on last day of course term.

Tutorial Registration

Students need to talk to the convenor and then to their supervisor.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
A written report on the research project 75 % 2,4
Seminar 20 % 2,4
Progress record 5 % 1,3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Delivery of all assessment items is compulsory. Commitment and assiduity in conducting the research is essential. That said, by nature this class aims at nurturing autonomy, creativity, self-discpline and self-driven work. Each project is different, in its focus, type of techniques used, time-constraints, students have a lot of initiative and flexibility in organising themselves, but also a responsibility to their host lab/team.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 75 %
Learning Outcomes: 2,4

A written report on the research project

The major part of the project report will take the form of a scientific research paper, consisting of Abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion and references. The report will also include an additional evaluation section in which you will reflect on what you have learnt about doing research (Reflective component).

The project report will be assessed on the following criteria

  • Logic, rigour, accuracy
  • internal consistency: the extent to which ideas are presented consistently and with clear progression from research questions through to conclusions
  • the use of information and/or evidence to sustain argument: how and to what degree the information sourced from authorities in a field or from data collected is integrated and used to sustain the argument; clarity and accuracy in presenting data
  • demonstration of analytical and critical judgment: the extent of reflective assessment and appraisal of strengths and limitations of previous work and/or own work
  • quality of conclusions: clear statement of the meaning and relevance of findings presented through linkage to other research, potential of findings to contribute to the field and identification of further work required to confirm or extend conclusions.

Please check course Wattle site for due dates.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 2,4


The seminar will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • Content: inclusion of enough background to the project to understand its significance, clear presentation of results and key findings and clear understanding of the major issues, ability to answer questions after the seminar
  • Delivery: including fluency and clarity, interaction with the audience; use of notes or props, quality of visual backups; for example, consider features of good slides (not too much information, a minimum of words, visually pleasing etc)
  • Structure: including consistency of argument from research question to conclusions, choice of material to be presented (not too much information; rather key points), information content appropriate for a general audience, effective use of time.
  • Presentation

Please check course Wattle site for due dates.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,3

Progress record

In research it is critical to keep accurate records of your undertakings, evaluation and progress. The progress record of most projects will be in the form of a written or electronic laboratory note book. These provide a permanent records of scientific endeavor and forms the basis for formal written pieces of work such as reports, theses or published papers. They can be considered to be a legal document, available to auditing. They should allow colleagues to understand how the experiments were conducted and to reproduce them. Entries must be clearly legible, dated and sometimes signed by a supervisor.

Please check the course Wattle site for due dates.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Spencer Whitney
6125 5073

Research Interests

Lab leader at RSB, in the areas of plant development and stress signaling. I am interested in developmental plasticity in relation to drought and climate change,. We study how this is genetically controlled, from stress sensing mechanisms, to stress signaling cascade and adaptive processes. A fascinating aspect is the conservation of some mechanisms across the plant and human kingdoms.

Prof Spencer Whitney

Thursday 10:00 11:00
Prof Spencer Whitney
6125 5073

Research Interests

Prof Spencer Whitney

Thursday 10:00 11:00

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