20.109(F09):DNA engineering "Memo"

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20.109(F09): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Persuasive writing is a specialized form of communication. Advertisements, letters to the editor, and brochures are all forms of persuasive writing. There are many others. The goal for all the persuasive writing is the same, namely to convince the reader to a particular point of view. For this assignment you will try your hand at persuasive writing by crafting a short "memo" to your hypothetical "vice president for research" at a fictional startup biotech company, "FYDR Formats, Inc." You will write as if you are the head of the company's "RECOMBO" research division, which includes research and development of the delta5 and delta3 GFP system for detection of homologous recombination. You must write an "end of fiscal year" memo in which you argue either FOR or AGAINST taking the delta5/delta3 research in your division forward.

Submission: October 15th or 16th, 2009

This assignment is due by 11:00 a.m. on the day you have lab. Please turn in your memos electronically by uploading them to the Stellar website that is associated with our class. It is important that you name your files according to this convention: Firstinitial_Lastname_LabSection_Mod1Memo.doc, for example: S_Hockfield_TR_Mod1Memo.doc

There will be a 1/3 letter grade penalty for each day (24 hour period) late. If you are submitting your assignment after the due date, it must be emailed to nlerner, lsutliff, nkuldell and astachow AT mit DOT edu. There will be no re-write option on this assignment, though you will receive feedback on your work.

A rubric that will be used to assess your memo is here

Format requirements

Memo Template

  • Please model your memo on the following template
  • Note: the recommended length for this memo is 1-2 pages, not including supplementary documentation

Body of Memo

After the header section (i.e. "to" "from" etc) the memo will have 3 major sections.

  • Section 1: Summary

Please start this section with the phrase, "This memo responds to your request that..." since it will help establish your reason for writing the memo--namely as a response to the vice-president of research’s inquiry about the best path forward with the delta5/delta3 recombination system. Keep in mind that the VP of research has a scientific background, but will not know the specifics of your project as well as you do. Next, provide a brief statement of the key recommendations you have reached as well as the methods and evidence/sources you have used to reach them. Most people will not need more than one paragraph to accomplish the summary.

  • Section 2: Discussion

Use this section to point out the most important findings and analysis that led to your recommendation. This section can be any length but should be guided by two thoughts throughout:
1. organize the information in the clearest, most concise way possible, i.e. make it exceptionally easy for the reader to reach your conclusion on his/her own. Subheadings are a particularly effective way of signaling the organizational structure of this section and of transitioning from one topic to the next.
2. establish yourself as a credible source for this information. You will be most credible if you highlight your expertise and understanding of the subtleties of the subject based upon your experimental results. Establishing credibility also requires that you appreciate and directly address any limitations in the data.

  • Section 3: Recommended Action

This is your GO/NO GO decision. Your recommendation should stated clearly, in one sentence, and should based on considerations such as:

  • What data you have so far
  • How robust your data appears, i.e. performance of any controls as well as any relevant statistics
  • What the weaknesses of your approach are
  • Why this approach might be taken over others--this requires that you had previously identified competing technologies
  • What further applications you envision for your assay

Supplementary Documents

What you include in this section is up to you and will depend on the body of your memo. Any relevant data and documentation that has been discussed is fine to include as long as it has been formatted so the reader can understand what is being shown. Be sure to refer to your supplementary documents in your memo (e.g., “see Appendix A” or “see attached protocol”). If there are several documents, you might want a bullet-form list of them after the "recommended action" section.