You currently hold an offer from us to commence study on the MSc Human Molecular Genetics (HMG) in October 2020 and we are looking forward to welcoming you to the Department at the start of the new academic year.  

We are contacting you with more details about how our MSc HMG programme will run in the Academic year ahead. At all times, the programme will be subject to the requirement of the current UK Public Health guidance and College Health and Safety measures. Unless the UK or your home country public health guidance precludes it, we anticipate the class will be able to attend the full programme in the UK throughout the year, including the Spring Term. The MSc programme will be delivered as a combination of online and campus-based sessions with the same content, learning outcomes, and assessments as last year. The whole year is outlined for you below. 

 

Social cohesion 

As we discussed with you in our recent programme Zoom meeting, most of our Autumn term will be delivered online. This will require you to have access to a computer and a reliable internet connection for most days of the term. The programme will start in the first week of October 2020 (5 October) and we have planned induction sessions during the first two weeks for you to meet us, your fellow students on the programme, and your tutors (online and in person meetings). These induction sessions will also be an opportunity for you to familiarise yourselves with the online platforms and tools we will be using in the year, and for all of us to set expectations around the programme and online/on campus learning and teaching. All learning material will be accessible through our Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard) and Microsoft Teams. As Imperial students, you will have free access to these as well as induction sessions. 

Throughout the year, we will continue with these opportunities to socialise and feel part of this year’s MSc cohort. To this effect, we will organise several online group work sessions, some with our group tutors. Where possible, once per week we have planned for you to meet face to face with your class and an academic, so we can ensure continuity in the programme and explain the course work priorities from week to week. The three weeks in the teaching laboratories will also be great opportunities to strengthen these bonds amongst you and with us.  

 

Molecular Genetics (Module 1), Term 1 

Our first module will be taught mostly online during Term 1. The MSc team has prepared an exciting programme for you to study the principles of molecular genetics. For example, this year a number of the teaching sessions will be delivered as “flipped classrooms” - each lecturer will provide a brief recorded lecture on the topic, key recommended reading and a some questions for you to consider and answer during your reading (individual and group study), followed by a live teaching session with the lecturer. We are timetabling activities during the week to help you organise your work effectively, with face-to-face sessions taking place either on Monday or Friday mornings. On average, each week will have around 20 hours of timetabled learning activities which you will complement with individual study. Importantly, this approach will provide you with opportunities to develop your molecular genetics knowledge and skills, individually and in study groups.  

 

Genetics of Rare and Common Disease (Module 2), Terms 1 & 2 

We will begin the principles of genetics applied to rare and common disease in Term 1 and continue with the genetics of cancer, the genetics of diabetes and epigenetics in Term 2. This module will include flipped classrooms, a journal club discussion with your study group and tutor and a formative essay to be handed in at the end of Term 1. To conclude this module, this academic year we also plan to attend as a class the European Society of Genetics (ESHG) conference to be held in Glasgow (12 -15 June 2021). Should the Society decide to cancel the physical conference in Glasgow, we anticipate that the conference will be delivered online. If the Society decides to not run an online alternative, you will instead continue with your research projects during that week. 

 

Analytical Methods in Human Genetics (Module 3), Term 1 & 2 

Module 3 is a large module as we assume no preliminary student expertise. The module consists of three related subjects or sub-modules: 1) Introduction to Statistical Thinking and Data Analysis, 2) Bioinformatics and 3) Genomics. As such, Module 3 will run throughout Term 1. The first two sub-modules will be held each Monday with a teaching session in the morning and a Workshop in the afternoon to consolidate concepts that have been introduced the previous week. Exercises will be set each week in order for students to be able to assimilate new concepts at their own pace. The Genomics sub-module will include genomic study design and the analytical methods of linkage and association. The module will include the preparation and defence of a robust genomic study design in the form of a scientific poster presentation that will draw upon a number of aspects of the MSc programme. 

 

Genomics in the Laboratory (Module 4), Term 1 

Practicals One (1 week, Basic) and Two (2 weeks, Advanced) will be held this year during Term 1 in our teaching laboratories at Hammersmith Campus. In each practical the student will perform a series of experiments that will be followed by computer Workshops to analyse the data obtained in the laboratory and to consolidate concepts that have been introduced. Exercises will also be provided in order for the students to be able to assimilate new concepts at their own pace (e.g. DNA sequence analysis, restriction digestion mapping). The module will ensure students understand how to operate safely in a laboratory setting, set up and perform molecular genetics experiments, interpret results, present molecular techniques to the class, trouble shoot and maintain a comprehensive and clear laboratory book that will allow independent investigators to replicate your methods and results. These skills are essential for all laboratory work. The main aim of this taught module is to familiarise students with how to work in a laboratory in a safe, scientific and efficient manner in preparation for the 6-months research project. 

 

HMG Research Project (Module 5), March-September 2021

We are currently anticipating no major changes to Module 5 (HMG Research Project) which will be provided by experienced supervisors and their research groups on campus and elsewhere between March and September 2021. Should physical access to laboratories be limited, we will provide a choice of state-of-the-art genomics and bioinformatics dry lab research projects and research systematic reviews. 

 

Assessments 

Assessments this year will be largely the same as in previous years. Anticipated changes will include that written exams may be delivered as online essay assessments (Modules 1 and 2) and Data Interpretation exams (Modules 3 and 4) could also be adapted to be held online. Formative essays set as course work during Modules 1 and 2 will provide you with detailed feedback and prepare you for these summative exam essays. All remaining assessments will be held as usual as part of coursework assessment. Should the Spring term be delivered remotely, we will also adapt the Poster presentation examination for remote delivery.  

 

Student Experience 

Your experience at Imperial goes beyond just your academic studies. With the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), Imperial has been working with your Union to ensure that we are able to provide, enhance and facilitate all areas of your student experience under all eventualities.  We identified key pillars of the wider student experience:  academic experience; research culture and environment; amenities and accommodation; student community; wellbeing support; co-curricular activities and extra-curricular activities.   Information on how we will deliver these, along with information on our Library Services, considering current social distancing restrictions, as well as a full lockdown, are set out on our website

 

How we can answer your questions 

As always, should you have any questions, please contact us and we will be delighted to talk to you and clarify any point that might still lack clarity. 

Thank you for choosing Imperial as the institution to undertake your postgraduate studies. We look forward to meeting and welcoming you in October! 

Prof Mark Thursz & Dr Toby Andrew 

Head of Department & Programme Organiser 

MSc HMG in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction