• Class Number 4257
  • Term Code 3250
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Spencer Whitney
    • Prof Spencer Whitney
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 01/07/2022
  • Class End Date 30/09/2022
  • Census Date 22/07/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 22/07/2022
SELT Survey Results

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. They are integrated in a research team and get direct experience in core components of research activities, from posing a question, defining hypotheses to address it, and the appropriate approaches to examine these hypotheses; data analysis and rigorous presentation, interpretation of results, and most importantly their critical assessment and discussion in the context of the current body of knowledge. Students are experiencing first-hand the joys and tribulations of probing the unknown, the drive, curiosity, discipline, and perseverance this requires.

This course is designed to be flexible and allows for a broad range of research areas and environments to be experienced by students. Interested students are encouraged to contact the convener and prospective supervisors in Biology. Many research areas are available, please see: Themes | ANU Research School of Biology

It is also possible to be hosted at the Genetic Counselling Unit of The Canberra Hospital for a Genetic Counselling Internship. This option is aimed at those with a special interest in the field of human genetics, specifically in the area of genetic counselling. Students who wish to be considered for this internship should have completed BIOL3204 Human Genetics, or other relevant human genetics courses and the eligibility criterion of at least a 70% average across science courses during previous semesters. Please contact David.Rowell@anu.edu.au for more information about Genetic Counselling Internship option.

NOTE: This course is an Honours Pathway Course that involves research oriented material of a greater conceptual difficulty than a typical 3000 level science course.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Plan and engage in an independent and sustained critical investigation and evaluation of a chosen research topic supervised by an academic
  2. Systematically identify relevant theory and concepts, apply them appropriately, and draw appropriate conclusions
  3. Engage in critical review of appropriate and relevant information sources
  4. Understand and apply relevant research techniques and methods
  5. Record original data and apply statistical or other evaluation processes to original data when appropriate
  6. 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 choosing 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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

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 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
Seminar 20 % 1,2,3,4,5,6
Research Report/Paper 65 % 1,2,3,4,5,6
Progress Record and Research performance 10 % 1,2,3,4,5,6
Reflection posts 5 % 1,2,3,4,5,6

* 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 Integrity 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 Academic Skills 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: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6


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 the course Wattle site for due dates. Every effort is made to ensure students receive the outcome and feedback from their seminar prior to the submission of their Research Report.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 65 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Research Report/Paper

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 the course Wattle site for due dates.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Progress Record and Research performance

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.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Reflection posts

Four posts spread across the duration of course. Format, content, style and length of these posts are completely free. They must reflect genuine thoughts and self-analysis in relation to the intellectual experience, fun, difficulties, enjoyment, frustrations related to the research experience and its environment- These entries are “check points” along the way to entice you to step back and think about the research experience you are going through, beyond day to day activities and in the context of what it helps you learning about yourself, scientific research, and what you may want to do next. These posts are confidential.

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. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

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 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

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

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

My research focuses on utilising synthetic biology to scrutinize the assembly, metabolic regulation and kinetic plasticity of the biospheres most abundant protein, the photosynthetic CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase). The research provides training in molecular biology, protein engineering (directed evolution), enzyme kinetics, biochemistry, plastome transformation, tissue culture, measuring leaf photosynthesis and plant growth.

Prof Spencer Whitney

By Appointment
Prof Spencer Whitney
6125 5073

Research Interests

Prof Spencer Whitney

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions