20.109(F13):Reflection assignments summary page

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20.109(F13): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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DNA Engineering        System Engineering        Biomaterials Engineering              


Two points of your final grade are determined by these reflections. Each satisfactory reflection will be worth 0.5 points. After that, each additional reflection will count as an extra credit FNT. That is, 0.5 points will be added to the numerator but not the denominator of your homework grade. With a typical FNT denominator of 60-65 points, you could increase your FNT score by about a quarter of a letter grade if you do all three extra credit assignments.

If a reflection seems extremely "phoned in," half credit will be given (0.25 points). An extra credit assignment may be used to replace this score. However, no FNT bonus will be given in addition, and the maximum of three such assignments still holds.

Mandatory reflections

You must complete all four of these assignments by the indicated due date. There is no word limit, per se, but you'll find that 200-300 words will be about right for conveying your thoughts here.

You may also complete up to 3 of the optional reflections for extra credit.

The hardest part of scientific writing for me is…

(Due 10/14, 5pm)

You’ve just completed your first major science communication assignments in 20.109. The culminating writing assignments for Module 1 contained the major building blocks of a technical journal article: an abstract, a methods section, and the meat of the paper – the data and analysis. Although scientific writers usually end up at a similar endpoint, most people get there by following slightly different paths. For example, I find it particularly useful to write my Methods section first, as it refreshes my memory and reminds me how exciting it was do the work. Next, I take this ‘writers high’ to the data section, which I find the most difficult to write. What was the hardest element for you to complete within the major assignments of Module 1? How might you approach this part differently while writing your full research report for Module 2?

Conquering stage fright.

(Due 5pm M2D7 for M2D5 presenters, 5pm M3D1 for M2D8 presenters)

The old adage of “picturing your audience naked” to distract you from your nerves before public speaking engagements is really not very good advice. There are several less distracting and more practical ways to calm yourself before speaking. The first, and perhaps easiest, is a deep breath and a smile. Often, the journal club assignment in 20.109 is the first time students have formally presented research performed by someone else. What did you find to be the most surprising part of preparing and delivering your presentation? Were there elements that you feared, but found them to be easier than you thought or vice versa? How did you calm your nerves (if you felt any) before beginning your presentation?

This time around, things were easier. Or perhaps not?

(Due 5pm M3D1 for all)

For many 20.109 students, the research article completed for module 2 is the first journal-like manuscript that they have ever prepared. Your 20.109 teaching staff try very hard to provide helpful and constructive feedback through FNT assignments, presentations by the WAC faculty, and one-on-one consultation. Additionally, BE has recently opened the BE Writing Lab to help students optimize their scientific writing process. While fresh in your mind, please reflect on what resources you utilized during the preparation of your first draft and which you found to be the most and least helpful --- why (please provide specifics)?

A module of a different color is still biological engineering.

(Due 11am, 12/12/13)

Module 3 always makes me think of the old Seasame Street song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FClGhto1vIg) “One of these things is not like the other.” In Module 1 and Module 2 we used pretty advanced molecular biology and protein engineering techniques to measure cell-level behaviors by a fluorescent readout. While we are most definitely still exploiting the protein structure and properties of phage virus in Module 3, it just feels different. But, all of the applications that we’ve explored in 20.109 fall under the guise of Biological Engineering. When you describe Biological Engineering to your friends and families, what examples do you use? What does the term ‘Biological Engineering’ mean to you?

Optional reflections

(All due 11am, 12/12/13)

  1. Write an executive summary of one paper that you’ve read this semester that has not already been discussed by the class as a whole. Include the major conclusions and any critical feedback you would give the authors. Why did you think this paper was interesting and important – or why not?
  2. Evaluate yourself as a science communicator – where did you start the semester? What area(s) have you most improved on? What remains a challenge and what are your plans to improve in that area? Are there resources that MIT (or your 20.109 teaching staff!) could make available to you?
  3. Discuss a meeting that you had with your BE Writing Fellow. What did you find most useful? Was there anything that you found to be surprising? Confusing? Motivating? Funny?
  4. Provide one idea for a future module that could be developed for 20.109. What would the main goals of the module be? What techniques would be learned? How would you suggest communicating the experimental (or modeling!) results of your module (i.e. oral report, written report, mix)? Would you want to help develop it during a summer UROP or over IAP?