20.109(S12): Protein engineering report

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20.109(S12): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Back to Module 2.


The culminating assignment for Module 2 will be a research article in which you describe your protein engineering investigation. The term research article (as opposed to laboratory report) is meant to indicate your growing maturity as scientific writers, and our growing expectations of you. Your Module 2 paper should approach the quality of the primary scientific literature (excepting its lack of experiment repetition), especially with respect to explaining rather than merely documenting your observations. For more information about research articles vs. laboratory reports see here.

Be sure to review the 20.109 statement on collaboration and integrity as you proceed.


Method of Submission

Please email your completed report to 20109 DOT submit AT gmail DOT com, with filename Firstinitial_Lastname_LabSection_Mod2.doc (for example, S_Hockfield_TR_Mod2.doc).

First Draft Submission: April 23rd UPDATE: April 24th

The first draft of your research article is due by 1 pm on April 23rd (Monday) for everyone.UPDATE: Now due by 1 pm on April 24th (Tuesday) for everyone.

Revised Article Submission: May 8th/9th

Your first draft, with feedback from the technical faculty, will be returned on May 1st (Tuesday) or 2nd (Wednesday). You will then have the opportunity to revise your report for up to a one letter grade improvement. The final draft is due on May 8th (Tuesday) or 9th (Wednesday), according to which day you have lab. Please highlight any substantial revisions to your text, for example, by using a different colored font or a track changes function.

Formatting Expectations

  • Your main document (excluding figures) should be/have
    • .doc (preferred) or .pdf
    • 12-pt font
    • with 1-inch margins
    • double-spaced (excepting the abstract)
  • Figures can be made in a separate drawing program (such as powerpoint), and should be submitted as .pdf

Guidelines on Length

Not counting figures, report length should not exceed 13 pages. The following rough division is recommended:

  • Introduction: 2-3 pages
  • Methods: 3-3.5 pages
  • Results: 2-2.5 pages
  • Discussion: 3-4 pages

Concise writing is appreciated and rewarded! In other words, longer is not always better.

Content Guidelines

Begin by reading the general guidelines for scientific writing. A few notes specific to Module 2 are below:


The methods section can be somewhat more abbreviated than in Module 1, assuming a niche audience who is somewhat familiar with each procedure. Use the published scientific literature as a guide, and do not omit too many details (as some of the top journals that are really pressed for space do).

Discussion and Citations

This section should realize all the good practices described in the Module 1 assignment, but do so at a more advanced level. You will be expected to cite the broader scientific literature more thoroughly than before, both to set up your investigative question in the introduction and to inform your analysis in the discussion. You should also propose specific future experiments and otherwise show that you deeply understand the meaning and significance of your results; for example, if you have a hypothesis about why a mutation had the effect that it did, consider what follow-up experiments you might try. In addition to drawing conclusions from your own data, you are expected to spend some time considering your classmates’ data. (Include the mutants most relevant to your own results rather than every mutant in the class.)

Suggested Figures

In most research endeavours, you will collect more data than you ultimately publish. In the spirit of writing a research article, in this assignment you should present only essential data. For example, if your sequencing reactions worked, there is no need to present the redundant diagnostic digest that you used to quickly check your construct. The suggested list of figures below should be suitable for most of your write-ups, but you are welcome to make changes with good reason.

  • Schematics/diagrams
    • Depiction of your design strategy for mutants
  • Figures
    • Sequencing
    • SDS-PAGE
    • Titration curves for WT and mutant protein
  • Tables or just text
    • Cell pellet observations – color and relative growth rates
    • Purified protein concentration
    • KD and/or Hill values for relevant model(s)


The full descriptive rubric for lab reports can be found on the guidelines page. Methods and Results will be graded by Dr. Stachowiak and the rest of the report will be graded by Professor Jasanoff, weighted about 30:70 or 33:66.