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During 2021 we will continue to support students who need to study remotely due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and travel restrictions. Make sure you check the location code when selecting a unit outline or choosing your units of study in Sydney Student. Find out more about what these codes mean. Both remote and on-campus locations have the same learning activities and assessments, however teaching staff may vary. More information about face-to-face teaching and assessment arrangements for each unit will be provided on Canvas.

Unit of study_

NUTM3888: Metabolic Cybernetics

Obesity is a worldwide health problem driven by a complex intersection between genetics and the environment. This interdisciplinary unit of study aims to explore recent advances in 'omics' technology and big data analysis. The focus will be on how to tackle highly complex questions such as why some individuals become obese and others don't. The problem will be presented from a range of societal, biological and evolutionary perspectives to increase breadth of knowledge on the problem of obesity. You will be provided a research training opportunity to contribute to our understanding of the relevant problems of over-nutrition in our society. Collaborative research is supported by lectures and tutorials on nutrition science, systems thinking and data coding and analysis to deepen data literacy and enhance interdisciplinary communication and collaboration.


Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Unit code NUTM3888
Unit name Metabolic Cybernetics
Session, year
Semester 2, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

NUTM3004 or NUTM3002
[(BCHM2X72 or BCMB2X01 or MEDS2003) and (BCHM2X71 or BCMB2X02 or DATA2002 or GEGE2X01 or MBLG2X7X or BIOL2XXX or PHSI2X0X or MEDS2001)] or (BMED2401 and BMED2405)
Assumed knowledge

PHSI2X0X and (MATH1XX5 or ATHK1001)

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Kim Sally Bell-Anderson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Open book) Type C final exam Final exam
Online open book without invigilation
30% Formal exam period 1.5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment group assignment Research project: multimedia communication OR proposal presentation
Multimedia communication OR Project proposal pitch
15% Multiple weeks multimedia: 500 w, 3 min OR pitch: 10min
Outcomes assessed: LO8 LO11 LO10 LO9
Assignment Data visualisation exercises
10% Week 06 Variable
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO10
Assignment Systems essay
10% Week 08 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO3
Assignment Research report: reflection
Written reflection
5% Week 11 2 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO8 LO11
Assignment Research project - lecturer evaluation
Online task
5% Week 11 Variable
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO11 LO8
Assignment group assignment Research project report
15% Week 12 4000 words/ 10 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO2
Presentation group assignment Research project - oral presentation
Final project presentation
10% Week 12 5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
group assignment = group assignment ?
Type C final exam = Type C final exam ?
  • Systems essay: This essay aims to assess how well you
    understand the systems perspective. Marks will be awarded based on how clearly you can communicate what systems thinking is.
  • Data visualisation exercises: This assessment aims to assess how
    effectively you can use data visualisation for conveying a clear message in order to answer a specific question and/or facilitate decision making. You will create two images, one as a visual representation of data, and the other a redesign of a diagram/pathway or other representation of a mechanism relating to obesity.
  • Research project: You will work in an interdisciplinary team setting to solve a real-life problem. You will be allocated to small teams with students from other units. Teams will produce a team oral presentation, a team multimedia/pitch presentation and a final report. Team process is also assessed by peer evaluation, individual reflections and submission of meeting minutes.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Multiple weeks Team research project (18 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Team research presentations (2 hr) LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 01 Obesity - A scientist's view (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Data, lies and visualisation (1 hr) LO4 LO6 LO10
Data visualisation in R I (2 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 02 Obesity - A clinician's view (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Systems biology (1 hr) LO3 LO5
Data visualisation in R II (2 hr) LO6 LO7 LO10
Week 03 Genetics of obesity (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Week 04 Evolution of food and disease (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Nutrition in obesity (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Week 05 Nutrition as a complex system (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO9
Week 06 Developmental origins (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Week 07 The psychology of obesity (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Neural control of energy balance (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Week 08 Physical activity (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Population and socioeconomic aspects of obesity (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Week 09 The microbiome in obesity (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5
Food processing (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO9
Week 10 Statistics (2 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 11 Precision Medicine (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: All students are expected to attend all lectures, tutorials and datorials and group work team meetings. Absences from all scheduled group work team sessions must be explained
and supported by appropriate documentation. Note that the Faculty of Science has a minimum 80% attendance requirement for a student
to pass any unit of study. 

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Explain the multilevel nature of obesity and how this influences the way research must approach the problem
  • LO2. Synthesise knowledge of the obesity/diabetes epidemic from a multifactorial perspective and appraise the use of interdisciplinary approaches to intervention, be they political, social, economic, medical, etc
  • LO3. Describe the components of a system and identify systems associated with obesity
  • LO4. Describe what ‘big data’ is and where it comes from
  • LO5. Identify and appraise contemporary research techniques eg ‘omics’ and explain how they contribute to the generation of ‘big data’ and systems biology
  • LO6. Develop empirical research skills, data analysis and visualisation skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • LO7. Use the statistical program R for basic descriptive analysis and visualisation of large biological/health data sets
  • LO8. Collaborate with experts across multiple disciplines in a larger team and integrate findings from across groups in a scientific oral presentation
  • LO9. Relate complex primary data to a wider health problem in the community (‘big picture’ view)
  • LO10. Represent significant complex findings in a creative way, making appropriate use of visual imagery to communicate with a non-specialist audience
  • LO11. Work effectively in an interdisciplinary group - with appropriate communication and collaboration skills

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Assessment weighting has aligned with co-share Units of Study (STAT3888, FOOD3888, QBIO3888)


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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