Analytical Methods in Biosciences

Depending on the task, bioscientists employ a wide array of methods such as chromatography (various versions of HPLC in particular), electrophoresis, spectroscopic methods (Mass-Spectroscopy (MS), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), X-ray analysis, and a broad range of detection techniques aimed at identifying and quantifying biomolecules at very small concentrations). Analytical methods used by biological and medical scientists develop and change very fast in recent years. Writing a good essay would inevitably involve a literature research in the recent peer-reviewed publications. Appropriate publication databases should be searched for relevant articles and reviews. Usual web search is unlikely to produce a comprehensive overview of existing body of knowledge since these days many scientific articles are simply not available in the free access.

Clear well-defined structure with logical and coherent flow of information is critically important. The structure is dictated by the task at hands but the following questions almost always need to be covered: Which methods exist to perform a particular analysis? Why you have chosen a particular method that you use in your work? What are advantages and limitations of this method? How the limitations can be addressed via optimisation of analytical procedure or the use of alternative approaches? Which equipment do you use, what are its advantages, limitations and possible alternatives?

Reviewing up-to-date methodological information would help to demonstrate not only your ability to learn the things taught at the classes but also to research and interpret new data. The latter is the most important skill for any independent researcher and something that, in the short terms, would bring you excellent marks. Same analysis can be performed with different methods, and it is vital to establish which method is optimal for your particular task. For instance, separation and identification of small amounts of DNA or protein can be done with the use of classical electrophoresis and sequencing techniques, as well as more advanced (and much more sensitive) methods based on capillary electrophoresis and MS. All this means that proper literature research for your essay should focus on the most resent publications and reviews.

Research data and illustrative examples selected for essay should follow the logics of your essay. They should be not just relevant, but arranged in an order that helps to illustrate the right points at the right time. This would make the essay easily readable and understandable. Ability to communicate your thought clearly is always one of the points your essay will be marked for.

Obviously, the structure, depth and complexity of essay depend on the particular task at hands. The requirements for short undergraduate work and postgraduate dissertation are very different. But the major “selling” points mentioned above are always highly appreciated.