Success is a journey, not a destination.
The toughest thing about success is that
you've got to keep being a success.
BIOC 311: Advanced Experimental Biosciences Assignments and
Remember, the undergraduate program is a series of steps.
Keep in mind that a level of performance that would result
in a B/B+ or sometimes even an A at the introductory level,
does not (and should not) translate into a high grade at the
advanced level. We forgive a lot of mistakes early on
but you must recall the lessons learned from these mistakes
when you conduct similar work at an advanced level.
Additionally, the criteria we use to evaluate your performance in an advanced laboratory course are different from those we use in an introductory course.
"Fairness" in this course means everyone is evaluated
on the same criteria. Since everyone does not have
the same ability, everyone does not get the same grade; this
outcome is not "unfair" but rather is simply reality.
- Please read my Honor Code Policy.
- A total of 250 POINTS is available in this class.
Please read my policy concerning
late assignments. Pre-lab exercises in "Tests
& Quizzes" and the library project in "Assignments" are submitted
in OWL-Space: although there is no time limit for completing
the pre-lab exercises, you are allowed a single submission;
the library assignment is submitted as a team by the due date/time
specified in OWL-Space. Please
check OWL-Space for the Release/Due Dates; you must submit
your work during this time frame to get full credit. You
must complete the all of the pre-lab exercises ALONE (i.e.,
do not work on the pre-lab with anyone else): you may use your
class notes/web site/Scopes, etc.; have a calculator and pen/pencil
with scratch paper on hand as you answer the questions.
Due dates for assignments are listed in
the weekly schedules on the course web site and the BIOC 311
GCal in OWL-Space; those dates are subject to change. Do
not ask for an individual extension to a due date because
you have a paper due, or three exams, or you lost your disk;
due dates are set so that you have plenty of time to complete
your work. Don't wait until the night before to start - there
is no penalty for starting early. The final notebook
pages, Results draft, and Discussion draft, and final paper
must be turned in by 3 pm on the specified due dates.
Contributions of individual assignments are as follows:
- 70 points = Research Paper
- 70 points = Lab Notebook (35 points per grading)
- 35 points = Laboratory Citizenship and Participation (see
- 35 points = Pre-lab exercise (5 points per week)
- 20 points = Rough Drafts (5 points per section)
- 10 points = Plagiarism Exercises
- 10 points = Library Assignments (5 points each)
- Take advantage of opportunities to earn points. Some of the
assignments may seem trivial, but if you lose these points,
you will not be able to catch up with the final paper. For
example, quizzes are worth 14% of your final grade: if you
familiarize yourself with the procedures each week, you should
do fine; if you don't bother paying attention in lecture or
reading the day's procedures, you may score low on the weekly
quizzes, and this performance may drop your final letter grade
by as much as a third. In preparing for the quizzes,
think about the "big picture" and do not get hung up trying
to memorize every little detail--I promise I will never ask
you the concentration/pH of a buffer solution or how to program
- The lab notebook is 28% of your final grade.
You learned how to keep a research quality notebook
in BIOC 111 and 211.
In BIOC 311, you are expected to follow those same guidelines. If
you have any questions, please ask.
- The final research
28% of your final grade.
Special Note: Although each draft is worth just 5
points, it is not simply a "completion grade." If
it were a completion grade and you automatically received 5
points, then many students would just throw something together
last minute to earn those points. I don't expect your drafts
to be perfect but in order to earn full credit, they must follow
recommended guidelines--you have multiple resources to help
you, including the OWL-Space class videos, McMillan, BIOC 311
web site, sample research paper from our model journal, and
paper writing experiences from BIOC 211. You are not
writing a research paper for the first time--you do have more
data and you have to select what data to present and how to
present it. There are certain expectations for your draft
at this level (i.e., a junior/senior level advanced course).
The more effort and care you put into the rough drafts, the
better the feedback I can give you and the less time you'll
have to spend making revisions for the final paper. Your
drafts as well as your final paper are expected to conform
to the specifications described in Instructions
to Authors for BIOC 311. Submit all work in its final
form (i.e., NOT handwritten, on a computer disk, as an attachment,
or in an e-mail message)--ONLY printed documents will be accepted
except in special circumstances that must be approved by me
in advance of the due date.
- GRADING SCHEME
You will be graded on an absolute scale by percentage, as in the table. This means that you will not be graded relative to the performance of others in your class.
Grades posted on Esther are FINAL and cannot be changed.
Assessing Laboratory Citizenship and Performance
Created by David R. Caprette, Ph.D., Rice University
Modified by Beth Beason-Abmayr, Ph.D., Rice University
It is highly unlikely that in a real job you will be given
responsibilities that are so well defined that all you have
to do is follow instructions. It is equally unlikely that
you will be solely responsible for an outcome. Undergraduate
laboratory courses, laboratory components to lecture courses,
independent study, engineering design courses, and the like
constitute the experiential part of the curriculum. They
give you the opportunity to apply your cumulative knowledge
and experience to specific problems. In particular, experiential
courses enable you to polish up and apply teamwork skills
and to exercise critical thinking.
A completely satisfactory lab performance would be equivalent
to an A. A completely satisfactory performance requires
that the group's performance be satisfactory as well. For
example, if an "unknown individual" throws sharp
glass or nondisposable items in a wastebasket and nobody
catches it, everyone loses points. An exceptional performance
will be rewarded with an increase in score and may include
bonus points. Punctuality, safe conduct in the laboratory,
and efficient completion of lab responsibilities will enter
into the evaluation of overall performance.
Participation during the Monday sessions will be crucial
to your learning. Passive students who do not contribute
to discussions or problem solving are less likely to do well
on assignments and exams. Participation during Monday sessions
will be judged using clicker questions. Students who respond
(correct or incorrect answer) to each session's
questions will earn up to 5 points towards the citizenship
portion of your grade. The remaining 30 points of the citizenship
grade will be based on your participation in discussions,
preparation for class/lab, and overall performance in lab
Expectations and Performance Criteria
You are expected to come on time, fully prepared and alert.
You should be engaged in the work itself and be aware of
your surroundings. You are expected to work efficiently,
safely, and responsibly. Most of the specific criteria listed
here characterize an effective member of a team.
All Monday classes meet in DCC 113 and begin promptly at
2:00 PM; all labs meet in ABL B03 at 1:00 PM, and labs will
start on time. Showing up on time is a sign that you are
fully engaged in a project, are responsible, and that you
respect your supervisor and coworkers. When you are late
your arrival is likely to be disruptive. For example, you
will interrupt the pre-lab talk for at least some people
if you come in after it starts. As you settle in you will
distract both the instructor and students in the vicinity.
You may miss key instructions and even become a liability,
affecting the efficiency with which your team works, and
possibly compromising safety.
Just showing up on time is a sign of courtesy. So is cleaning
up your lab station and keeping common areas such as sinks,
balances, bench tops, hoods, and side benches clean and neat.
Be aware that there are others working around you, and think
before you blurt out a question, possibly interrupting a
conversation between instructor and student. Think before
you drop a backpack in the middle of an aisle, take the last
latex glove out of the box, or pour something into a sink
ignoring the fact that the drain is clogged.
An exceptional performance might involve cleaning up a common
area such as sink or side bench, or pointing out a major
During pre-lab talks listen carefully for changes to a protocol,
for the locations of supplies and equipment, for pointers
as to use of equipment, and similar details. Conversing during
a pre-lab talk, fiddling with equipment, working on an assignment,
or sleeping are not recommended behavior. Above all, be awake
and alert. Occasionally a student shows up in lab nearly
catatonic. It is impossible to learn when you are fighting
to stay awake. Get a good night's sleep.
Know the objectives of the day's work and how you will achieve
them. Knowing how you will achieve them involves
reviewing the course web site as well as watching OWL-Socrates
presentations or reading additional material in Scopes and
McMillan. Meet with your team to discuss the lab and
divide up tasks. Watch for opportunities to apply a
skill that you have learned in a previous laboratory session.
When the pre-lab work calls for calculations, have them ready
to go when you arrive to lab. If you do have trouble with
pre-lab planning or calculations, give yourself time to work
it out before you get to lab.
Students are considered to be exceptionally well prepared,
for example, when they respond to questions with informative
answers, ask especially relevant questions, or are readily
able to adjust to changes to a lab protocol or troubleshoot
Responsibility and Teamwork
Responsible students work safely and are careful about discarding
materials such as broken glass. Responsible people double
check to make sure that they conduct procedures correctly
and watch for signs that something is wrong. They report
when stocks are getting low instead of simply taking the
last of something. They keep common areas clean, sinks and
fume hoods clear of debris, advise others of unsafe or wasteful
practices or report such practices. On the other hand, irresponsible
people might waste supplies or damage equipment, allow their
lab partner to make the same mistake they just made, throw
away the samples that they need the following week, forget
to enter data for the team, or enter data incorrectly.
Exceptionally responsible students focus on the overall goals
of the teaching laboratory and not just their own work. People
who can organize a group and keep the team on track are especially
Students who finish earlier than most while successfully
completing their lab work are usually noted as being exceptionally
efficient. Students who take an exceptionally long time usually
do so because of some omission in a procedure, unfamiliarity
with the protocol, inattention to a pre-lab talk, or in some
cases simply being too meticulous. In any case we
will take the effectiveness of a team into account.
One important way to be efficient is to divide responsibilities
so that one team member is working on one part of a study
while the others focus on other parts. Efficiency requires
that you take notes as you go along. Once you complete your
lab work, you should not take more than five minutes to make
the last entry and write a brief summary.
It is especially inefficient to "trade" notes when
your team has finished the lab work--and in fact, it's an
honor code violation. Such practice suggests that you've
missed the whole point of timely recordkeeping. You are all
equally responsible for a complete laboratory record. If
you simply copy your teammates' notes you miss the opportunity
to ensure that the notes are complete and accurate. Communicating
with each other during the lab session allows you to catch
each other's mistakes and helps you keep up with the recordkeeping
as you go along.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ABOUT LABORATORY PERFORMANCE: We
expect students to follow explicit instructions and to recall
and apply previous training to each experimental procedure.
- You will be assessed each week in the following areas:
- Preparation (e.g., pre-lab calculations)
and familiarity with procedures (you're not expected
to know how to do the procedures already, but you
are expected to have read over the procedures and be
familiar with the "big
picture" for the day)
- Lab Citizenship (showing up on time, cleaning up
your area as well as common areas, adhering to safety
instructions, using and storing equipment properly,
handling lab reagents and solutions sensibly, helping
- Proper lab notebook (i.e., updating Table of Contents
BEFORE coming to lab each week, recording notes DURING
experiments, NOT writing on scrap paper and copying
or catching up at the end of lab or exchanging notebooks
with your team at the end of lab)
- Teamwork (collaboration, division of labor, troubleshooting, and time management)
- Ability to function independently (troubleshooting and time management)
- Experimental technique (did you obtain reasonable results?)
- You are expected to function both as a member of a TEAM and as an INDEPENDENT investigator.
Follow the experimental procedures, record the results, and analyze/interpret your findings.
Accomplishment of the laboratory goals requires contributions from EACH team member.
If a team member does not carry his/her weight, focuses only
on his/her own work, or is not competent in the lab please bring
this matter to our attention; be honest and objective (your
comments will remain confidential). A conscientious evaluation
of your peers will be appreciated and will be considered when
determining the laboratory performance grade.
- You do not necessarily earn a high grade in lab
performance by obtaining the expected results (i.e., performing
the experiment properly); likewise, you do not necessarily lower
if you don't obtain the expected results. You are evaluated
on HOW you get the results, not the results themselves.
And, there are many factors besides experimental technique
(see the list above) that contribute to the evaluation
of your lab performance. In
other words, even if you lose your enzyme on lab
day 3, you can still earn an "A" in lab performance.
You will likely make mistakes, especially with a procedure that is brand new and strange--that's ok when that happens. I will help you troubleshoot so you can decide what steps to take next. Many times when I've made mistakes or something just didn't work the way it was supposed to I actually learned more and understood the procedure better than when/if it worked as expected.
Sometimes experiments fail, or the results don't make sense, or your findings are at odds with published studies. Because of time constraints and limited materials you may not be able to repeat the procedure in a lab course; however, you should recognize that in a research setting you would perform the experiment again.
****Come to lab prepared and learn to work effectively
as a TEAM. Focus on learning and you should do just fine.****
and Intended Use
Created by B. Beason (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rice University, 9 June 1999
Updated 3 January 2014