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BMSC209 Pathophysiology AND BMSC208 Research Design and Ethics

Unit rationale, description and aim

Biomedical research is at the forefront of preventing and treating disease and requires professionals who can work and communicate in complex and interconnected disciplines and consider their work through an ethical lens. This unit begins by examining the ethical principles that underpin biomedical research including autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice and provides students with the opportunity to examine the ethical considerations that arise in biomedical research. 

Students are challenged to develop solutions to current problems in human health through both team and independent projects, with autonomy to choose their area of focus. Students will draw on and apply knowledge acquired throughout their biomedical science degree to integrate their understanding of the complexities of various problems in human health. In addition, students will further develop their skills in searching for and critiquing authenticated resource material, and their project management and communication skills.

This capstone unit aims to advance students’ knowledge, health literacy, problem-solving, project management, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as their ability to apply ethical principles to their professional decisions.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Explain and appraise ethical principles that influence biomedical research and human health and apply an ethical lens to solving problems and critiquing literature (GA3, GA4, GA8)

LO2 - Evaluate evidence obtained from authenticated sources to critique biomedical research and address current problems in human health (GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Create and plan projects that offer potential solutions to complex problems in human health that can be communicated to both scientifically literate and lay audiences (GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

•  The background and significance of Research Ethics Committees

•  Ethical principles and how they are applied to biomedical science research

– Autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice as well as other contextually important principles in human and animal research

– Considerations and application of ethical principles to current problems in human health.

•  Exploration of current problems in human health that require students to integrate their understanding of various interconnected biomedical science sub-disciplines such as neuroscience, human genetics, microbiology, immunology, pathophysiology and pharmacology.  

•  Project & team management for biomedical scientists

– Foundational theories and their application for professional settings in the biomedical sciences

– Project management; including planning projects, development and use of Gantt charts, SWOT analysis and other scenario-planning strategies. 

– Team management; including Tuckman’s stages of group development, Belbin’s team roles and the Science of Scientific Team Science (SSTS).

– Effective communication strategies for teamwork; including active listening, giving and receiving feedback and resolving conflict.

•  Creative thinking techniques

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

In this capstone unit, a flipped learning approach will be used to strengthen active and self-directed learning, as students are required to explain complex disease mechanisms by researching and synthesising evidence from a number of biomedical sub-disciplines. Students will learn from live interactive seminars presented by professionals with a background in biomedical science in order to foster interaction and networking within the industry.

In workshops, case studies are used to allow students to work collaboratively in teams to discuss, critique and debate ethical dilemmas, plan projects and solve problems in human health.

In tutorials, students have the opportunity to work independently on their projects in a mock work environment where their tutor acts as a mentor. Students will learn project and time management skills, improve their communication and other important professional skills such as researching, organising, analysing, synthesising, and evaluating information. They will engage in discussions with their mentor about the progression of their independent projects.

In the final weeks of the unit, students will present their work at a mock conference where industry professionals, faculty, family, and friends may be invited. Through this learning activity, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their content knowledge and their ability to communicate ideas to both lay and scientifically literate audiences.

Consistent with adult learning principles, the teaching and learning strategies used within this unit will provide students with knowledge and skills relevant to their profession. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively with their peers. These learning and teaching strategies reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner and support students in meeting the aims, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of this unit and the broader course learning outcomes.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment items consistent with University assessment requirements and policy will be used to ensure that students achieve the unit learning outcomes and attain the graduate attributes; these include a written ethical appraisal, a group assessment in the form of a project proposal, and an independent communication project.

Assessment Task 1 is a written ethical appraisal that provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply ethical principles to a range of issues influencing biomedical science research and human health, and to reflect on their own developing ethical understanding.

Assessment Task 2 is a project proposal where students work collaboratively to develop a novel solution to a real-world biomedical problem. The team project will encourage effective communication, planning and project management skills, high level analytical and research skills, and teamwork skills. This assessment provides students with an opportunity to showcase problem-solving skills developed throughout this course, and their ability to communicate to a scientifically literate audience. Regular in-class team presentations will provide opportunities for immediate feedback to assist students in evaluating their progress with respect to the learning outcomes.

Assessment Task 3 is the ‘Communicating Human Health Independent Project’. This task will enable students to focus on a complex problem in human health of their choice. Students will research their topic using high quality authenticated sources to explain its impact on human health using an ethical lens. Students will communicate their ideas to both lay and scientifically literate audiences. Regular discussions on students’ draft work will provide opportunities for feedback prior to students presenting and submitting their final pieces. This assessment task will allow students to demonstrate enhanced communication skills and integrative knowledge that have been gained during their degree.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1: Written ethical appraisal

Provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply ethical principles to a range of issues affecting biomedical science research and human health. Students will also submit a short reflective piece on one ethical principle and its influence on a biomedical issue.


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA8

Assessment 2: Group project proposal

Students work with colleagues in a team to develop a novel project proposal to a real- world problem. The proposal will include an overview, rationale, proposed outcomes, detailed project plan, and a statement addressing ACU’s Mission and ethical considerations. Proposals will be communicated to a scientifically literate audience.


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment 3: Communicating human health - Independent project

Provides students with an opportunity to develop an authentic piece of work that addresses a specific problem in human health at an advanced level. Students will communicate their ideas to both lay and scientifically literate audiences, which will showcase the communication skills and integrative knowledge gained during their degree.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Beauchamp, T. & Childress J. (2019) Principles of biomedical ethics 8th Edition. Oxford University Press, New York.

Caplan, A. & Parent, B. (2017) The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Medical Technologies. Routledge, UK.

Christian, K. (2018). Keys to Running Successful Research Projects: All the Things They Never Teach You. Netherlands: Elsevier Science.

Hiskes, R. & Hiskes, A. (2019). Science, Technology, And Policy Decisions. Taylor & Francis, UK.

Murphy, T. & Caplan, A. (2004) Cases in Biomedical Research Ethics. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts

Saxena, A. (2019) Ethics in Science. Pedagogic Issues and Concerns. Springer, Singapore.

Walker, B., Colledge, N., Ralston, S. & Penman, I. (2014) Davidson's principles and practice of medicine 22nd Edition. Churchill Livingstone, London.

Witchel, H. (2020) Writing for Biomedical Students. Macmillan Study Skills, Bloomsbury, UK.

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