You will perform three series of experiments (called “modules”) over the course of the semester. The modules differ in both intellectual and experimental content, and in the ways that your learning will be assessed. Links to the experiments and assignments are provided below.
Although your lab work will be done in pairs, you must submit individual written work (for both daily homeworks and major assignments) and give individual journal club presentations. You will close out the course by developing and presenting a novel research idea as a two-person team. Please read the 20.109 statement on collaboration and integrity for more detail about academic honesty in our class. You are encouraged to ask the teaching faculty should a question arise as to what constitutes collaboration, plagiarism, etc.
We appreciate that time management can be a difficult skill to develop, and that learning takes place on many time-scales. However, assignments being turned in at wildly disparate times creates additional logistical burdens for the teaching faculty. Therefore, late work (both daily and culminating assignments) will be penalized 1/3 of a letter grade for each day late and will not be accepted after a week. We strongly recommend that you plan ahead and space out your work when possible.
We will endeavour to provide equal access to subject 20.109 for students with disabilities, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Please see the teaching faculty as soon as possible regarding needed accommodations.
In addition to the assignments listed above there will be
- Daily Lab Quizzes (5% of final grade)
- These are intended to refresh your memory about the experiment you are performing. They will not be hard and should take just 5-10 minutes at the beginning of lab.
- Laboratory Notebooks (5% of final grade)
- You will record your data on the white pages of a bound notebook. The yellow, duplicate pages will be collected and evaluated by the teaching assistants.
- Notebooks will be evaluated according to the criteria described here.
- Homework Assignments (7% of final grade)
- These will vary considerably in content and associated points/weighting. Most of them will directly prepare you for major assessments (e.g., making a draft figure for a lab report) or lab work (e.g., performing a calculation in advance).
- The homeworks can be found in the "for next time" (FNT) section of each lab day as well as in a single list here.
- Assignments should be submitted as hardcopies at the beginning of lab. A select few assignments must also be submitted on Stellar in order to receive feedback from the writing instructors and are marked as such.
- You can work with your lab partner, friends and teaching assistants on the FNTs but you will hand in individual assignments unless otherwise specified.
- Participation and Reflection (3% of final grade)
- As a student in 20.109, you are expected to be an active participant in a scientific community. Your student colleagues, the teaching faculty, and especially your lab partner are all your collaborators. They rely on you for timely posting of your data, and for your unique and thoughtful contributions during class.
- One-third of your participation grade will be directly assigned by the teaching faculty, who will consider: whether you asked and/or answered questions during lecture, whether you engaged with opportunities to improve your understanding/communication/etc., and whether you promoted a considerate and collaborative class environment.
- To determine the other two-thirds of your participation grade, you will write brief reflective pieces on a few aspects of your 20.109 experience throughout the semester. These assignments will be listed under that day's FNT section, but will be counted separately from other homework. You must complete at least 4 and no more than 8 reflections. The due date schedule and further explanation of both mandatory and optional reflections is linked here.
Communication Guidelines and Resources
This part of the page is way more important than it looks! Time and time again, students have told us that they wish they had read these guidelines sooner, and that it would have made their early efforts more productive. We understand that it can be difficult to apply abstract ideas to your writing (and presentation) practice right off the bat. So besides reading these guidelines now, revisit them often as you start to draft parts of your reports and presentations.
This semester you'll also have access to two kinds of in-person writing assistance. Our Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) instructors for 20.109, Leslie Ann Roldan and Marilee P Ogren, will be providing written feedback on draft report sections as well your completed draft upon request. They'll also provide formal instruction on the requirements of a lab report and run a workshop on scientific writing using student examples. Finally, they are available for office hours by appointment. We also have a department-wide writing tutor, Wally Holland, available to work on any writing assignment you bring him (Course 20 or otherwise), in person or via email. Wally will focus primarily on writing workflow and drafting/revision, so he'll be especially helpful early in your writing process. For oral presentation assistance, you will hear a lecture from and meet individually with WAC instructor Atissa Banuazizi.
Guidelines for writing up your research
- General instruction for how to write your lab report and research article.
Guidelines for oral presentations
- How to give a good oral presentation.
And in case you missed these links above, see also
Guidelines for maintaining your lab notebook
- How to maintain a good lab notebook.
Statement on collaboration and integrity
- Academic integrity guidelines specific to 20.109.