University of Technology Sydney

60906 Science in Practice

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Science
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.

Description

In this subject a major scientific breakthrough is studied in considerable detail in order to build an appreciation of the way in which science operates. The elucidation of the double-helical structure of DNA provides an ideal case study on which to base an in-depth investigation on scientific research. There is opportunity to consider the issues involved in collaborations: both the advantages and the pitfalls. It is also an outstanding case for considering how science progresses: there were some blind alleys that dominated thinking for some time and may have delayed progress but flexible minds were able to work around the roadblocks. Overall the 'DNA story' is an excellent example of a major scientific breakthrough that had far-reaching consequences and came about because of a concerted campaign by many researchers working in a spirit of competition and friendly rivalry.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Understand that human factors influence the progress of science
2. Show in-depth knowledge of the DNA case study
3. Understand the influence of personality on personal scientific practice
4. Demonstrate the capacity to base a coherent argument on evidence
5. Appreciate different models of scientific progress and undersytand how they can applied to the DNA case study

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

The Faculty of Science has determined that our courses will aim to develop the following attributes in students at the completion of their course of study. Each subject will contribute to the development of these attributes in ways appropriate to the subject and the stage of progression, thus not all attributes are expected to be addressed in all subjects.

Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application: the disciplinary knowledge in this subject relates principally to the practice of science. Coincidentally, students will refresh, or learn, knowledge about DNA chemistry and structure. There will also be an opportunity to explore the prospects and limitations of various techniques that are discussed in the case study.

An Inquiry-oriented approach: this subject develops a deep understanding of the practice of scientific research. Engagement with the original literature as well as historical accounts and biographical writings by the principal scientists is critical in this subject.

Professional skills and their appropriate application: professional skills that are further developed include a high capacity for critical thinking, soundness of judgment, and a superior level of comprehension.

The ability to be a Lifelong Learner: in exploring a case study in depth, there will be opportunities for searching and retrieval of relevant material. This will enhance skills that students may have acquired as undergraduates.

Engagement with the needs of Society: understanding how science works in detail is an important aim of this subject. Having that in-depth knowledge allows graduates to present science to the wider community.

Communication skills: in the subject there are many opportunities for communication in written, verbal and visual forms beyond the normal expectations for undergraduate students.

Initiative and innovative ability: as a postgraduate subject there is an increased expectation that students will take responsibility for their own learning. There is flexibility in negotiating the work that the students can undertake so that they can demonstrate innovation and initiative.

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject will be taught through study packages and a fortnightly meeting with the subject coordinator.

Content (topics)

  • The characteristics of science
  • Review of the development of the structure and function of DNA
  • The notion of progress in science: examining different models
  • Background information on the history, philosophy and sociology of science
  • Biographies and autobiographies of the key scientists in the elucidation of the double-helical structure of DNA

Assessment

Assessment task 1: Book Report

Weight: 30%
Length: approximately 3000 words
Criteria:

Demonstrated capacity for critical thinking. Demonstrated ability to read a text critically and extract the relevant information. Demonstrated capacity to sustain an argument based on evidence. Appropriate expression: including grammar, punctuation, spelling. Good referencing practices.

These assessment criteria relate directly to the following graduate attributes (please refer to list above for more detailed explication):
• Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application
• An enquiry-oriented approach;
• Professional skills and their appropriate application;
• The ability to be a lifelong learner;
• Communication skills.

Assessment task 2: Book Report Presentation

Weight: 20%
Length: approximately 20 minutes.
Criteria:

Appropriate use of visual aids. Evidence of background research. Capacity to explain concepts clearly. Ability to field questions. Demonstrated capacity for critical thinking. Demonstrated capacity to sustain an argument based on evidence.

These assessment criteria relate directly to the following graduate attributes (please refer to list above for more detailed explication):
• Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application;
• An enquiry-based approach;
• Professional skills and their appropriate application;
• The ability to be a lifelong learner;
• Communication skills;
• Initiative and innovative ability.

Assessment task 3: Assignment on 'The DNA Story'

Weight: 30%
Length: approximately 3000 words.
Criteria:

Demonstrated capacity for critical thinking. Demonstrated ability to read a text critically and extract the relevant information. Demonstrated capacity to sustain an argument based on evidence. Appropriate expression: including grammar, punctuation, spelling. Good referencing practices.

These assessment criteria relate directly to the following graduate attributes (please refer to list above for more detailed explication):
• Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application;
• An enquiry-based approach;
• Professional skills and their appropriate application;
• Engagement with the needs of Society;
• The ability to be a lifelong learner;
• Communication skills;
• Initiative and innovative ability.

Assessment task 4: On-line Posts

Weight: 20%
Length: Variable, depending on the task.
Criteria:

Evidence of ability to locate and retrieve relevant information; evidence of the capacity for reflection and planning; evidence of capacity to explore complex issues; evidence of understanding of major issues.

These assessment criteria relate directly to the following graduate attributes (please refer to list above for more detailed explication):
• Disciplinary knowledge and its appropriate application;
• Professional skills and their appropriate application;
• The ability to be a lifelong learner;
• Communication skills.

Minimum requirements

Any assessment task worth 40% or more requires the student to gain at least 40% of the mark for that task. If 40% is not reached, an X grade fail may be awarded for the subject, irrespective of an overall mark greater than 50.

Recommended texts

J.D. Watson (G.S. Stent, ed.), The Double Helix, Norton Critical Edition, New York: W.W. Norton, 1980.

The Norton Critical edition is recommended because it includes reviews of the original book by others involved in DNA research in the 50s and 60s. There are also copies of the original papers by Watson, Crick, Franklin and Wilkins.

References

E. Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature, New York: Rockefeller University Press, 1978.

J. Clayton and C. Dennis (eds.), 50 Years of DNA, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

F.H.C. Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

S. de Chaderevian, Designs for Life: Molecular Biology after World War II, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.

R.E. Dickerson, Present at the Flood: How Structural Molecular Biology Came About, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 2005.

H.F. Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Molecular Biology, 25th Anniversary Edition, Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1996.

T. Krude (ed.), DNA: Changing Science and Society, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

V.K. McElheny, Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution, New York: Perseus, 2003.

B. Maddox, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, London: Harper Collins, 2002.

R. Olby, Francis Crick: Hunter of Life’s Secrets, Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2009.

R. Olby, The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1994 (originally published 1974).

F.H. Portugal and J.S. Cohen, A Century of DNA: A History of the Discovery of the Structure and Function of the Genetic Substance, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977.

M. Ridley, Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, London: Harper, 2006.

A. Sayre, Rosalind Franklin and DNA, New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.

M.H.F. Wilkins, The Third Man of the Double Helix, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.