Frequently asked Questions


  1. What services does the Administrative Assistant provide?
  2. Can I be absent from mid-term examinations or laboratory exercises?
  3. What are the rules pertaining to absences from final examinations?
  4. Do we have Saturday classes?
  5. Is there any netiquette regarding the communication with Academic Staff?
  6. When do I submit my work?
  7. When would my work be returned?
  8. What are the rules regarding plagiarism and cheating?
  9. How are courses evaluated?
  10. Is there anyone responsible for conveying my concerns to the relevant heads?
  11. What is the grading scheme?
  12. Are there prizes for those who excel in their subjects?
  13. What are the laboratory rules?
  14. What are field classes?
  15. If I need help, what do I do?
  16. In case of emergency, who do I contact?
  1. What services does the Administrative Assistant provide?

The Administrative Assistant provides the following services to students:

  • Provides general academic information to students.
  • Can be consulted for information concerning the Faculty’s regulations.
  • Provides general consultation concerning the degree programmes.
  • Provides guidance on Change in Registration (Add/Drop).
  • Provides information concerning oral examinations.
  • Provides information concerning requests for exemption from or credit for the practical component of courses.
  • Assists Student in the selection of courses.


  1. Can I be absent from mid-term examinations or laboratory exercises?

Understandably, during the year you may be absent from a mid-term examination or laboratory exercise due to illness or an extenuating circumstance. Should this arise you are required to submit as soon as possible, and not later than seven days from your absence, a valid medical certificate or a letter of excuse outlining the circumstance for your absence.

The original medical certificate or letter should be submitted to the Assistant Registrar, Student Affairs (Admissions) and copied to the Head, Department of Life Sciences. You must clearly indicate on the document your name, student identification number and the course/s or examination/s for which you were absent.

Students who have submitted medical certificates/letters of excuse are required to liaise with the Lecturer/Teaching Assistant on their first day on return to classes to discuss the possibility of a make-up examination/laboratory exercise. Any student who was inexcusably absent from a practical or test or does not submit a practical report (initial or make-up) will receive 0% for that exercise. Note that a field trip cannot be repeated for a make-up so you should make every effort to attend field trips.

  1. What are the rules pertaining to absences from final examinations?

Absence from final examinations should be reported on the prescribed form to the Senior Assistant Registrar, Student Affairs (Examinations) within seven (7) days from the date of the examination. Kindly refer to the “Examination Regulations for Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates” for further information.

  1. Do we have Saturday classes?

Most courses adhere to the Monday to Friday teaching period. However, Saturday is a recognised teaching day at UWI, and some courses are conducted in part or entirely on this day in order to accommodate, for example, large classes with more than one lab stream during weeks with holidays, or field trips of several hours’ duration. Students unable to attend Saturday sessions must make arrangements to attend streams on other days or make up for the missed sessions in some other way.

  1. Is there any netiquette regarding the communication with Academic Staff?

Communication online has its pros and cons. One of the big pros is that you can send e-mail or post questions and comments to discussion forums any time you like. One of the big cons is that the tone or intent of a message can be misinterpreted. To keep the lines of communication open and flowing nicely, all e-mails and posts to discussion forums must observe the following points of 'netiquette':

  1. Informative subject lines. Always include the lesson number and at least one or two relevant key words. For example, 'I have a question' is a poor subject line. 'Lesson 3: Question about mitochondria' is much better.
  2. Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. E-mails and discussion posts should be written just as you would write a letter to the Queen, the Prime Minister, or your grandparents. Use complete sentences and paragraphs. Internet acronyms such as IMHO, ITA, ROTFL, LMAO, etc. are not appropriate for academic discussions.
  3. References. Where appropriate, give textbook page numbers, class website page references, etc., when you mention specific items. Be prepared to cite sources in support of your arguments.
  4. Correct forum. Take a few seconds to ensure that your post is going in the right forum. If you post to the wrong forum accidentally, move your post to the correct forum.
  5. Aggression. Avoid the use of the following styles of writing, which can be interpreted as aggressive behaviour in e-mails and in discussion forums:
  • All Caps. Restrict your use of Caps Lock to EMPHASIZING individual words or creating titles or subheadings in your message. THE USE OF ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING!
  • Excessive punctuation. Multiple punctuation marks can be read as anger; for example: No!!!! That is not a useful application!!!!!! ?????What are you talking about????? Follow the rules of grammar in using punctuation.
  • Negative slapping. This is characterized by brief, unsubstantiated comments in response to another person's e-mail or post. For example, if someone posts a description of the process of mitosis and another person responds with 'Use consistent language', this is a negative slap. The responder has not made it clear what they are referring to, and has not provided reasons for disagreeing or references demonstrating the original post to be incorrect.
  • Flaming. This one is obvious. Out-and-out personal insults are flames, but so are condescending or sarcastic comments. Such posts will be deleted, and appropriate action will be taken against the offender.

6. Tips:

  • Focus on one subject per message.
  • Compose your message off-line in a word-processor, then copy and paste it into a discussion post. You can then take as much time as you need to organize and format your message.
  • For long posts, start with a warning that it is a long post, and organize your message into paragraphs. Consider using subheadings.
  • Humour is encouraged and welcome, but use caution. The absence of face-to-face cues can cause humour to be misinterpreted as criticism or flaming.
  • Always preview your message.

Modified from WebCT: Communicating online. Retrieved November 10, 2006, from by CITS.

  1. When do I submit my work?

Dates for in course tests and handing in of assignments are posted at least one week ahead. Coursework, term papers, and other assignments completed outside the classroom must be submitted by the stipulated date. Late submissions are not accepted without good cause in the form of an approved medical or equivalent document.

  1. When would my work be returned?

Every effort is made to evaluate and return in course work in a timely manner. While multiple choice and fill in the blank tests are normally not returned, the lecturer will often, upon request, allow students to review their answer scripts. Test and assignment results are likewise posted in a timely manner. It is your responsibility to review the posted results as soon as possible, normally within one week of posting, and to inform the lecturer concerned of any errors or omissions.

  1. What are the rules regarding plagiarism and cheating?

Plagiarism is the misrepresentation of someone else’s work as your own. With the burgeoning amount of information available in print, on TV, and on the internet, the temptation to copy written, graphical or pictorial material into an assignment is very great. Yet this activity is morally and legally wrong. In lieu of formal disciplinary action, assignments containing plagiarized material will either be returned to the student with a mark of zero, or returned for resubmission when rewritten in an original form satisfactory to the lecturer for marking, at the discretion of the lecturer. This does not preclude formal disciplinary action, which may include expulsion from the University. Students discovered cheating on an in course test will normally receive a mark of zero for the test. Again, this does not preclude formal disciplinary action. The course coordinator may specify that coursework should be accompanied by a completed Department of Life Sciences accountability form.

Plagiarism Policy

Individual Work Plagiarism Declaration Form

Group Work Plagiarism Declaration Form

Additional Form (Use of Work Submitted Previously - Accountability Form)

  1. How are courses evaluated?

Courses in Life Sciences are evaluated by in course theory and practical tests, essays, practical reports, and so on, which typically account for 50% of the final mark in the course. A final examination typically accounts for the remaining 50%. As a general principle, medicals only excuse a student’s absence at the original assigned time. Students must still complete any makeup exercise offered in order to obtain the marks for that item of coursework. The student is responsible for liaising with the Course Coordinator or Teaching Assistant to find out any makeup arrangements. Absence from a test or practical must be accompanied by a written excuse or medical submitted to the Health Services Unit and copied to the Main Office, Life Sciences within 7 days of the missed exercise. Students must attend any make-up exercise offered or they will receive 0% for that item of coursework.

Please see course listing.

  1. Is there anyone responsible for conveying my concerns to the relevant heads?

Yes. Each class (or each stream in large classes) will elect a Class Representative and one Alternate during the first two weeks of the course. Time will be allocated for this by the lecturer during a tutorial or practical, but the conduct of the election may be by students, in the absence of the lecturer if so requested. The Class Representative and/or Deputy will attend the two meetings of the Student-Staff Liaison Committee held each semester, and present feedback from the students attending that course or stream to the lecturing staff. This feedback is normally provided both orally (in the absence of the course lecturer if requested), and in written form for transmission to the lecturers. Course lecturers or other staff will respond at the Student-Staff - 28 - Liaison Committee meeting, or later as a result of circulated notes of the meeting. Students may comment on any aspect of the course or facilities.

  1. What is the grading scheme?

The current (revised) grading scheme is available at:

  1. Are there prizes for those who excel in their subjects?

Yes. Prizes are awarded annually to students who excel in their subjects both at a departmental level and at a faculty level. Most prizes are cash prizes and some of the faculty prizes also include trophies. In this department, students are awarded prizes for the best year I performance overall and also best year I performance in botany, zoology, biology and environment and natural resource management. In years II and II the same prizes are awarded and in addition there are prizes for the best student in biochemistry. In addition to the prize winner a proxime is announced and this is the person who placed a close second. The Julian Kenny Prize in Natural History is awarded to a final year undergraduate student majoring in a Life Science discipline and displaying a strong interest in Natural History. Faculty prizes are awarded for all three years for the students who had the best overall average in the faculty. Students who graduate with first class honours are also honoured with a medal at the Prizes Award Ceremony which usually takes place in October, just prior to graduation.

  1. What are the laboratory rules?

The laboratory can be a potentially hazardous place if one is not careful. Some of the chemicals used are very dangerous and care must be taken when handling them. Broken glassware (due to student carelessness) is a potential hazard as flying pieces can come from anywhere. Proper clothing and eye protection is the sensible way to protect oneself against most common lab accidents. A student who is mentally prepared to undertake the lab, has studied the material and understands the procedures is less likely to make a mistake or injure herself or someone else.

Things to do

  1. Always wear a long sleeved, calf-length lab coat in the lab. You will not be permitted into the lab without a lab coat, unless the course coordinator informs you otherwise.
  2. Wear proper clothing in the lab, this means, wear long pants/skirts and closed toed shoes. The use of protective eyewear is also advised. You will not be permitted into the lab if sandals are worn or your toes are exposed.
  3. Be aware of the chemicals you will be using. This means, consulting texts, which list toxicity and safety, concerns. Two such texts are “Prudent Practices in the Laboratory” and “The Merck Index”. Additionally the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the chemicals that you will be using can be obtained online using a Google search.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the lab. Know where the exits are, the fire extinguishers, the first aid kit, eye wash stations etc.
  5. Maintain a complete research lab notebook containing all data, calculations, tables and results for each lab session. This book will be reviewed randomly throughout the semester.

Things you should NEVER DO

  1. Never eat, drink or smoke in the lab. Many types of experiments are run in the lab. Consider that fumes may be lingering in the lab. If you are discovered attempting to eat, drink or smoke in the lab you will be evicted immediately.
  2. Mouth pipetting is prohibited. Mechanical pipettes are provided.
  3. Never work alone. You must always have someone else, i.e., a lab partner working with you.

Breakage fees

All broken glassware is reported and recorded and the individual or laboratory partners are held responsible and the appropriate deductions are made at the end of the academic year. Students pay an upfront caution fee when they register for the first time as freshmen. If no glassware breakage is attributed to the student when they graduate the full amount of caution money is returned.

  1. What are field classes?

Field classes or field practicals are a vital part of your undergraduate education. They illustrate the concepts that have covered in the theory part of the course and will allow you to gain skills that you will use in your future University courses and your career. An integral part of studying the Life Sciences and in particular Ecology, involves looking at organisms in their natural environment be it terrestrial or aquatic. By looking at these organisms in the field, you can see much more readily how they are adapted to their particular environment, what their specific habitat preferences are, and also any interactions between them. It is important therefore if you are to make a good field biologist that certain general guidelines be followed. All students taking field classes in the Department of Life Sciences should complete a departmental medical record form and lodge this with the Main Office (ground floor, New Wing). Click here to download Medical form.

  1. If I need help, what do I do?

Difficulties with course work should first be directed to the lecturer or course coordinator. Academic problems of a broader nature should be taken to the Subject Leader of your major programme, or to your personal tutor. Finally, you can consult the Head of Department or Dean of the Faculty if appropriate. Your first source of help for personal difficulties, including those originating from academic life, will probably be your peers, friends and family. If they are unable to meet your needs, you should contact your Academic Advisor (section 12). Every student at UWI is allocated an Academic Advisor by their faculty. If you do not know who your advisor is, ask in the Faculty of Science and Technology office (Chemistry Building 2). Your advisor is there to help you, and their advice is confidential. If your problems are more serious, or you wish for independent support from outside the Faculty, you should contact the UWI Counselling and Psychological Service where students can access free and confidential counselling for a range of emotional and personal issues.

  1. In case of emergency, who do I contact?

Students requiring immediate help because of life threatening or severe psychological difficulties can be seen the same day during weekday office hours. Caller should tell Secretary the matter is urgent.

  1. Counselling and Psychological Service:

            662-2002 Ext 82491, 82151, 83584

  1. Health Services Unit:

           662-2002 Ext 82149, 82153

           728-2408 Medical Transport

After hours’ emergencies

  1. University of the West Indies Police:

           662-2002 Ext 82120, 83510 or the HOTLINE 662-4123

  1. The Eric Williams Medical Science Complex, Emergency Service

This is open 24 hours, 7 days a week for physical or psychiatric emergencies. All services are free.


Please see the Life Sciences Undergraduate Handbook for more information.

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