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Unit information: Big Ideas in Science in 2021/22

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Big Ideas in Science
Unit code CHEM10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Nick Norman
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides a broad introduction to some of the fundamental ideas in science. It looks at the original ideas and concepts behind the discipline, the history and the people involved behind the main discoveries and /inventions. The implications or consequences of the scientific method? are explored as well as philosophical and ethical issues and the way different important approaches have built upon each other or interconnected. The remaining answered questions and ongoing research into fundamental issues, with a particular focus on research ongoing at the University will also be covered.

Aims The unit aims to provide an insight into some of the most significant scientific concepts and explore how these ideas have changed the way we think about the world. It aims to encourage students to be critical about the ideas presented – to think for themselves and discuss between themselves the scientific implications and ethical questions. The topics cover a broad range and draw upon expertise from across the entire Faculty of Science.

More specifically, the unit aims to introduce broad scientific ideas which may include such topics as – quantisation, imaginary numbers, climate change, relativity, symmetry and evolution.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Knowledge of fundamental scientific ideas.
  • An ability to talk about scientific ideas to others.
  • An understanding of the wider implications of scientific principles – to other disciplines and society.
  • An appreciation of the different sorts of scientific research that can be undertaken.
  • An appreciation for the different ways that a problem may be approached.
  • Knowledge of the concept of ‘uncertainty’ and how this pervades science and any measurement.
  • Experience in considering the philosophical and ethical implications of research.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a comnbination of

  • asynchronous online lectures
  • guided asynchronous independent activities and reading
  • synchronous group discussion sessions held either online, or if subsequently possible, face-to-face

Assessment Information

Students will be assessed by coursework throughout the year (100%). Coursework will be centred around the discussion workshops. There is no examination for this unit.

To receive credit for this unit, students must make a reasonable attempt at every aspect of the teaching and assessment. Participation in the discussion workshops is an essential way of achieving and demonstrating the intended learning outcomes for the unit, and students must therefore also engage in these groups. Failure to do so may result in credit being withheld, even if the overall mark is above the pass mark for the unit. Supplementary or resit assessment of this unit is only possible through engagement in the following academic year.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CHEM10001).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.