You will perform three series of experiments (hereafter “modules”) over the course of the semester. The modules differ in both conceptual and technical 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, most assignments will be submitted individually (as summarized below) and should reflect your personal understanding. 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 any questions you have about what constitutes appropriate collaboration.
- Individual assignments (60% of grade):
- All lab notebooks, quizzes, and homeworks (unless otherwise noted in directions)
- Module 1 DNA engineering mini-presentation
- Module 2 Protein engineering report
- Module 2 Journal club presentation
- Team assignments (40% of grade):
- Module 1 DNA engineering summary (draft and revision)
- Module 3 Biomaterials engineering mini-report
- Module 3 Research proposal presentation
We appreciate that time management can be a difficult skill to develop, and that learning takes place on many time-scales. However, assignments turned in at wildly disparate times create 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. For assignments that may be revised, be sure to read the late policy clarification in the assignment descriptions.
We will endeavor 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.
We will spend a lot of time together this semester and get to know each other well. Everyone in the 20.109 family needs the support of their peers and instructors. If you find yourself in a situation where more guidance would be appreciated – for example, if you are dealing with a personal or medical issue that is impacting your ability to attend class, complete work, or take an exam – consider visiting Student Support Services (S3). The deans in S3 will verify your situation, and then discuss with you how to address the missed work. We will not excuse coursework or provide extensions without verification from S3. Student Support Services may be reached in 5-104 or at 617-253-4861, and also has walk-in hours Monday-Friday 9:00-10:00am.
Most major assignments will be submitted on submitted on Stellar .
In addition to the assignments listed above you will complete
- Laboratory notebooks (5% of final grade)
- You will record your data in electronic notebooks. Your Evernote pages will be evaluated by the teaching assistant once per module.
- Notebook due dates (M1D7, M2D7, M3D5), days that may be collected, and evaluation criteria are described here.
- Weekly lab quizzes (5% of final grade)
- During each module you will complete 2 short quizzes (~12 minutes); quizzes are worth 15 points each.
- Quizzes have two main purposes: (1) To refresh your memory about the long-term experiment you are performing, and (2) To provide you with an opportunity to show your technical knowledge decoupled from your communication skills.
- Quizzes are based on the previous lab session(s): both lecture and lab content are fair game. Questions will concern fundamentals rather than details. For example, you might be asked to interpret a piece of data, define a major concept, or perform a short calculation.
- Quiz dates are: M1D1, M1D4, M1D7, M2D3, M2D7, M3D3, and M3D5 .
- Homework assignments (7% of final grade)
- Like quizzes, homeworks are intended to keep you up to date with the material. Most of them will directly prepare you for major assessments (e.g., making a draft figure for a report) or lab work (e.g., performing a calculation in advance). Associated points/weighting will vary widely.
- The assignments can be found on the "Homework" page and are linked to the "Schedule" page.
- 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 homework but you will hand in individual assignments unless otherwise specified.
- Participation and blogging (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 blog posts on a few aspects of your 20.109 experience throughout the semester at the 20.109 Class Blog. These blog posts are assigned to provide you practice writing for an open online community and will be counted separately from other homework. Considering all of the miscommunicated science we see in the media, it is important to learn how to effectively communicate your thoughts about both good and not-so-good aspects of your scientific experience. You must complete at least 4 and no more than 7 blog posts. The due date schedule and further explanation of both mandatory and optional reflective posts 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 communications-specific assistance from dedicated BE Communications Lab members. Dr. Vivian Siegel will provide instruction on both the written and oral communication assignments throughout the semester. She will also provide written feedback on select homework and writing assignments during Modules 1 and 2. In addition, Fellows from the BE Communications Lab will meet with you one-one-one to discuss your journal club presentations. The Fellows are also a great resource for you as you prepare your writing assignments.
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.