Quantitative methods for Life Sciences

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 28 June 2024
04 August 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C700 Biochemistry,
BSC C701 Biochemistry (Including Placement Year),
BSC C703 Biochemistry (Including Year Abroad),
BSC CR00 Biochemistry (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C100 Biological Sciences,
BSC C101 Biological Sciences (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C102 Biological Sciences (Including Placement Year),
BSC CD00 Biological Sciences (Including Foundation Year),
BSC B990 Biomedical Science,
BSC B991 Applied Biomedical Science (NHS placement),
BSC B995 Biomedical Science (Including Year Abroad),
BSC B999 Biomedical Science (Including Placement Year),
BSC BD00 Biomedical Science (Including Foundation Year),
MSCIB099 Biomedical Science,
MSCIBA99 Biomedical Science (Including Placement Year),
MSCIBB99 Biomedical Science (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C520 Ecology and Environmental Biology,
BSC C521 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C522 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C523 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Placement Year),
BSC C400 Genetics,
BSC C402 Genetics (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C403 Genetics (Including Placement Year),
BSC CK00 Genetics (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C161 Marine Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C164 Marine Biology,
BSC CC60 Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC CC64 Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
BSC C110 Biotechnology,
BSC C111 Biotechnology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C112 Biotechnology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C113 Biotechnology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIC114 Biotechnology,
BSC C200 Human Biology,
BSC C201 Human Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C202 Human Biology (Including Placement Year),
BSC C220 Human Biology (Including Foundation Year),
MSCIC098 Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Including Year Abroad),
MSCIC099 Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Including Placement Year),
MSCICZ99 Biochemistry and Biotechnology,
MSCIB097 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSCIBA97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIBB97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C510 Global Sustainability,
BSC C511 Global Sustainability (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C512 Global Sustainability (including Year Abroad),
BSC C513 Global Sustainability (including Placement Year),
BSC C555 Microbiology,
BSC C556 Microbiology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C557 Microbiology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C558 Microbiology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIC559 Microbiology and Biotechnology

Module description

This module aims to provide students with the necessary quantitative skills to enhance performance in other first year modules and to prepare them for their second and third years.

Students will develop their skills in areas including experimental design, data handling, display and interpretation, basic statistical analysis, and computational data analysis.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method, experimental design and investigation in the biosciences.

  • To use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus.

  • To use basic IT systems effectively for data handling and presentation.

  • To analyse data from experiments and draw sound conclusions about the underlying processes using their understanding of mathematics and statistics.

  • To analyse biological data using the R programming language.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Define the straight line joining two points, or passing through one point with a known slope, in the form y = mx +c and determine the value of the slope m.

  2. Understand the relationship between logarithms and indices.

  3. Define logarithms and solve equations with indices (e.g. 3z = 9) using logarithms.

  4. Understand the use exponential, power law and growth models in biological applications.

  5. Use simple calculus and calculate slopes of lines (differentiation) and areas under lines (integration).

  6. Use differentiation to locate stationary points, maximum and minimum values of a function.

  7. Determine the differential of exponential functions.

  8. Differentiate composite functions using the chain rule.

  9. Differentiate products and quotients.

  10. Understand how to apply differentiation to connected rates of change.

  11. Apply integration and differentiation to biological examples.

  12. Formulate a simple statement involving a rate of change as a differential equation, including the introduction if necessary of a constant of proportionality.

  13. Perform simple scientific mathematical calculations relating to molarity, concentrations and dilutions.

  14. List the different types of variable, explain the distinction between them, and, for a given variable, say what type it is.

  15. Produce frequency distributions from raw data, and to decide whether a tabular or graphical presentation is appropriate.

  16. Present data correctly in tabular form.

  17. Describe the different forms of graphical presentation, decide which one is appropriate for a given purpose and construct and present correctly different types of graphs.

  18. Define, calculate, report and know when to use simple descriptive statistics (i.e. mean, median, mode, range, standard deviation and variance).

  19. Explain why measurements of biological material are variable and explain the consequences it has for biological investigations.

  20. Define the terms sampling unit, sample, population, statistic and parameter and explain the relation between them.

  21. Explain the need for other essential elements in the design of a sampling programme or experiment, replication, independence and the avoidance of pseudoreplication and bias.

  22. Describe the main properties of normal distributions and explain their biological relevance.

  23. Explain why a parameter can only be estimated and what is meant by the reliability of the estimate of a parameter.

  24. Calculate and report, in the correct way, a standard error for a sample mean and explain how this interval estimate quantifies reliability.

  25. Define and explain the meaning of the following terms; parametric and non-parametric data, null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis, test statistic, sampling distribution, significance level, rejection region, critical value, decision rule.

  26. Use these terms to explain the general principle of an hypothesis test.

  27. Explain the meaning of one-tailed and two-tailed hypothesis tests and the limitations of their use.

  28. Interpret and use tables of critical values.

  29. Use relevant software to analyse and describe simple data sets with tables and graphs.

  30. Use relevant software to carry out the correct and appropriate statistical tests and correctly interpret the output.

  31. Present the results of statistical procedures clearly in a form suitable for a scientific paper.

  32. Read and write files with biological data in a computer using R33.

  33. Use basic functions to analyse and produce graphs.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • A mixture of lectures, classes and tutorials.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Maths (Moodle)    25% 
Coursework   Stats (Moodle)    25% 
Coursework   Data Analysis in R  26/03/2024  50% 
Exam  MCQ exam: In-Person, Closed Book, 50 minutes during January 
Exam  Reassessment MCQ exam: In-Person, Closed Book, 50 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Antonio Marco, email:
Dr Eoin O'Gorman
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Prof Jacqueline McCormack
Institute Technology Sligo
Vice President
Available via Moodle
Of 50 hours, 46 (92%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
2 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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