Information Technology & Quantitative Biology


Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, students will be able to:
● Prepare and present reports
● Use Information Services (Library and Computer) facilities
● Manage their time more effectively
● Use a personal computer for word-processing and spreadsheet tasks
● Handle a range of numerical data in the analysis of the results of biological experiments
● Prepare a curriculum vita and plan a career


To bring the student up to the basic minimum level of familiarity with necessary numerical, information technology, study, laboratory, time-management and communication skills, as well as general biological knowledge needed by a modern biologist. As such, it will provide a package of skills that are potentially transferable to a wide range of employment situations.


Practical workshops held during the first week will provide introductions to study skills, how to use a microscope, computing skills and basic laboratory skills.

Through a series of practical sessions and exercises the basics of current application of information technology will be introduced. The storage of data in files, file management, network uses, printing, as well as effective use of a graphical user interface will be taught. Familiarity will be ensured with not only the use of word-processing packages but also the rules of good layout. In the word-processing package the basic text handling and formatting operations will be taught as well as the use of an equation editor and how to insert graphics. Teaching the use of spreadsheet packages will be integrated, whenever possible, with the mathematical elements of the module in examples where real biological data will be handled. The concepts of workbooks and worksheets, inputting text and numbers, formatting cells and using functions as well as creating graphics will be dealt with.

The following mathematical concepts will be set in a background of handling biological data: types of numbers; significant figures; scientific notation; units - conversion from one level to another (including Standard SI units); logarithms, converting from number to log and back again; exponents; tables and graphs; concepts of dilution series; percentages and proportions; basic algebra; accuracy and precision in reporting results; the straight line, second and third degree polynomial functions, the exponential and power functions, allometry in plants and animals; elements of probability theory; samples and populations; relative frequency histograms and probability density curves; measures of location- mode, median, mean, measures of spread - inter-quartile range, variance, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, coefficient of skewness; the normal, Poisson and binomial distributions.

Tutorials will include guidance on the use of information services, essay writing, oral presentation as well as discussion of topics relevant to the student's degree course.

The Awareness and Skills Development Programme of the Careers Unit is incorporated in the module. This will concentrate on writing a curriculum vita, identifying personal skills as well as developing an action plan for study in addition to consideration of the student's career on leaving university.