University Subjects

MIIM30015: Techniques in Immunology

MIIM30015: Techniques in Immunology

University of Melbourne
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8 years ago

Two written reports (1300 words) worth 12.5% each. Two 5-minute orals + question time worth 12.5% each. 2 hr end-of-semester written exam worth 50%. You need to have a satisfatory lab notebook in order to sit the exam.
I always thought that practical subjects would be the bane of me but this was actually really enjoyable. The staff are incredibly supportive - kudos to Odilia and all of our fantastic demonstrators! Especially simpak for being super cool and chill too!

This subject is mandatory if you are doing an Immuno major (or if you do Micro/Immuno and don't do Techniques in Microbiology). There is almost no new theory in this subject. All the theoretical things you should have been taught in Principles of Immunology during semester 1. All the practicals you do get you to investigate what you learnt (usually just confirming known facts), so the background knowledge is pretty straightforward. You don't need to spend much time memorising details - just know the principles of all of your practicals, know how to interpret your results and relate them to the theory, and it seems like you should be set.

OK, so because this is a practical subject, you spend way less time actually sitting through lectures than you normally would. Lectures are only there to introduce you to the background info you need for each module/unit in the subject, otherwise they are to explain how you should write our oral and written reports. So sit back and chill. You'll usually have around 1 lecture per week. The class after your prac is usually when the demonstrators give you a debrief of the results. Use them to clear up anything you didn't understand dring the practical. They will also tell you what could've gone wrong in the prac and go through other questions in your lab manual too.

Depending on which group you're in, you'll have your own timetable for this subject. Different groups will be doing different pracs and therefore having different classes so be organised. Before each assessment, you also get to consultation session with your demonstrators just to iron out any last-minute questions you have regarding the prac you need to work on.

So, this subject is divided into 3 units. The theme of Unit 1 is the structure and function of the immune system. For prac 1A, you learn about flow cytometry (FACS) for the first time and use it to analyse T-cell development. In 1B, you use immunohistochemistry to stain for B and T-cells in the thymus and spleen. Finally, for 1C you are given a particular case study (all of them involve adoptive T-cell transfer) and you have to analyse it using FACS.

Then your first assessment pops up! You get assigned to do an oral presentation on one of the case studies, or the immunohistochemistry prac. You have a week to prepare your assigned prac with a partner. One of you will do the results/discussion, while the other will do intro/aims/methods and materials. Each person talks for 5 mins, and then afterwards your demonstrators will ask both of you questions. Sometimes the questions can be hard, left-of-field and brutal, but remember that the main point is to get you to talk and think out loud, so as long as you have something to say (even if it might be wrong) just blurt it out. I think the average for the orals was 10.5/12.5 so it is not bad anyway! Odilia has a whole lecture where she explains what you should include in your presentation so remember to check that out. Also, you are marked on your own individual performance. After receiving your oral marks you can get individual feedback if you ask for it.

In Unit 2, you look at innate stimulation of DCs using ELISA, FACS and qPCR. You'll be examining the expression of cytokines and surface markers. After going through the pracs, you get assigned to write a 1300-word report on one of them, with intro, aims, results and discussion. Ideally, you want to use your own data or figures, but if your data is totally screwed you can always use the demonstrator's results and figures. Again, Odilia presents a whole lecture on how long each section of your report should be and what you should include. You don't get your written reports back until like your very last class though, but your work is marked by two demonstrators who all give handwritten feedback on your hard-copy. For one of your prac sessions you also spend the entire time presenting different parts of a journal article about CCR7 expression and you have to explain the figures and experiments in the paper (dw you are not assessed on your presentation, but the journal club content is apparently assessed on the exam).

For Unit 3, you look at antigen recognition by T-cells using FACS and PCR again. You'll be using tetramer staining to look at TCR-peptide interactions, as well as TCR VB bias. For one of the pracs you have to go to a computer centre to determine what TRBV, TRBJ and CDR3 characteristics are being used in your antigen-specific population. You then have an oral and written report on two of these pracs, and the same things apply! Make sure you get feedback from your first round and use it to improve on your second round of assessment.

With the lab notebook, it's a hurdle requirement. It is pretty much a log of each prac you do - you should write up the intro, aims and methods/materials before each prac ALWAYS, and then just record notes and your observations into our book during the prac or when you get home. You need to also paste in any graph or image you generate on the computer, and then you need to at least write a brief conclusion on whether your aims were achieved and what could've gone wrong. It isn't hard, albeit maybe a little tedious and annoying but it is a good habit to practise! At around Week 6 they will check your lab notebook just to see if you're using it correctly - if you get a smile then you pass and if it's a frown its unsatisfactory, you gotta improve your game by the end of semester (because they will check it again to see if you've improved - nobody failed the second time round though). Your lab manual will tell you what you should write in it.

The exam is composed of 4 SA questions that will test your understanding of each prac you do - the principles of the techniques, what you actually did in the prac, interpreting your results etc. The exam is not a walk in the park though. It is quite long and a little hard I guess. You need to actually apply your knowledge, design your own experiments, make figures, describe and interpret the results of data they give you...And you also need to know specific experiments on the journal club. But don't fret - the average for the exam (going by 2014 data) was 51/70, with 40% of students achieving H1. Again, this isn't really too difficult of a subject - you already know all the theory, you are just learning how to confirm them using technology people often use in the lab.

What is really neat about this subject is that all the pracs tie in together really well. The background knowledge you need is pretty much all just revision. You can really see how different experimental designs complement each other in each module, how one technique can compensate for the shortcomings of another, and it gives you a much deeper appreciation of how science actually works. And the pracs are fun as hell as well! Sure, sometimes there is lots of waiting but in the meantime the demonstrators will go through questions in your lab manual or you can spend time filling out your lab notebook. Definitely a positive experience for anybody who likes wet lab-work! And you get to meet some awesome PhD students as well!

TL;DR - You have to do this subject for immuno but everything you learn is RELEVANT to what you've studied before, so it is actually pretty chill. Have heaps of fun, if you enjoyed the MIIM20002 pracs then you will like the third year Micro/Immuno ones!
Lectopia Enabled
Lectures are recorded, some of the debriefs that were held in the Doherty auditorium were as well.
Dr. Odilia Wijburg (Flow Cytometry, Subject assessment)
Dr. Annabell Bachem (Innate Stimulation of Dendritic Cells)
Dr. Daniel Pellicci (Antigen Recognition by T-cells)
Past Exams Available
Nope, but on one of the exam preparation lectures Odilia gives you maybe 3-4 sample questions.
5 out of 5
Textbook Recommendation
All you need are the lab manuals and slides from the LMS.
2 classes per week (either lecture, or debrief) and 9 pracs over semester.
Year & Semester Of Completion
Semester 2, 2015
Your Mark / Grade
H1 (83)

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