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Professional Skills in Biological Sciences II

Spring 2023


Tracy A. Larson (larson.tracy(at),

    No formal office hours. Email to arrange a meeting if needed.



Thursdays 4:30–6:00 pm. By Zoom, using this link or in-person in Gilmer Hall 245.

Official Syllabus


BIOL 8250 is the second of a two semester-long two-credit courses that provides training in essential skills for first year graduate students in the Department of Biology. Topics include: creating a mentoring network, developing a career training plan, building visibility, science communication to professional and lay audiences, conflict avoidance and resolution, and managing people and time, among others. This course includes some material relevant to ethics and best practices but does not fulfill NIH requirements for training in the responsible conduct of research.


  • understand expectations for professional students in the Department of Biology

  • enhance skills for time management and planning

  • improve scientific communication

  • improve scientific writing skills

  • integrate with one another and build connections across the Department of Biology

  • familiarity with resources and skills relevant to work-life balance, mental health, and conflict resolution 

Meeting Objectives

To meet these objectives, students are expected to attend and actively participate in each class. Students are to complete assignments in a thoughtful and timely manner.  Letter grade point assignments for the course can be found in the table below. Credit will be granted for the course for all scores 80 points total or higher.


 Active participation is mandatory. Attendance and participation  will be recorded each class by students filling out the following Google Poll (name, automatic date/timestamp, one sentence on what learned this class: and will contribute to 40% of the course grade. Form to be completed in class or by the end of the day (11:59pm).


The course will be a combination of readings, lectures, and discussions. Guest panels will occur via Zoom when panelists are from beyond the University of Virginia. All other classes will occur in-person. If in the event distance learning might become useful or necessary to prevent transmission of viruses, etc., classes may become hybrid or occur entirely via Zoom. Because each class will include active discussion, all classes will be synchronous, regardless of in-person or online. 

Late Policy

Late assignments will be penalized 10 points the first late day (starting 12:00am the day after due date) and 5 points per day thereafter, including weekends. No exceptions. The due dates (as dates and time projections, if schedule changes) are provided in the table below.


Masking Policy

Although UVa policy states that masks are optional for in-person discussions, we cannot provide an equitable and just atmosphere for learning if we are not protecting one another. Participants are requested to use masks for in-class interactions to protect others. 


A range of techniques to assess your progress toward these goals. Feedback on progress will be derived from variety of sources, including the instructor, guest panelists, your peers, and your mentors. Assignments are each worth 100 points and will be averaged for a final “Assignment” score, making up 60% of final grade.

Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important. If you have established accommodations with Student Disability Access Center (SDAC), please communicate your approved accommodations at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course and complete any necessary forms. If you have a condition that may result in unexpected absences, please make me aware of this possibility before missing any coursework. If you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact SDAC and to let me know so we can work suitable arrangements. 


Course Materials

Monthly Planning

Purpose and Use of IDP






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