F. Mestres, C. Arenas

Universitat de Barcelona (SPAIN)
Statistics is an important topic in all degrees offered by the Faculty of Biology (Universitat de Barcelona): Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences and Environmental Sciences. In the first year but in the second semester, the students of these degrees have a course of general Statistics. In the fourth year, they have a course of Design of Experiments and Data Analysis, which can be taken in the first or in the second semester. Thus, a good level of expertise in Statistics is expected in all students. However, most of them view this topic as very conceptual and far away from their interest. We notice that a fundamental moment to feel the usefulness of Statistics is when students need to compute their own results in their Final Degree Project. The new plans of studies introduced in the Faculty of Biology after ESHE (European Space for Higher Education) included a large number of ECTS dedicated to applied studies. The idea was to increase the students’ formation in practical skillful and scientific competences. These ECTS were divided between Practicum I, Practicum II and a Final Degree Project, with 6, 6 and 12 ECTS, respectively. The main point was the development of a research or biological applied Final Degree Project. While students worked in his/her research project, we detected that they realize the need for statistics (basic and multivariant) and they do not know how to use it in their research. This was an excellent opportunity to teach statistic in an applied way. As academics, we organize a system of update and refresh this topic in the following way. One of us (the evolutionary geneticist) explains to the student the information provided by his/her data and the importance of relate them with other variables such as the geographical location of the populations sampled and the environmental factors (temperature, rainfall, etc.). Then, the natural question arises: how to carry out these analyses? At this point the student is directed to the other academic expert (the statistician) who explains which computations to carry out and the reason of them. Later, with the results, the statistician explains their interpretation. The final step is to integrate the statistical results with the biological problem of the Final Degree Project. We have four years of experience, and we realize that students finally understand the value of statistical analyses and learn very well how to carry out these analyses, because it is a biological problem that they have to solve. In conclusion, we consider that integrating the research carried out by the student with the required statistical analysis is a very valuable and practical experience of learning.