20.109(S14): Assignments

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20.109(S14): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Home        Schedule Spring 2014        Assignments       
Module 1        Module 2        Module 3              


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 primer design memo and journal club presentation; Module 2 research article.
  • Team assignments (40% of grade): Module 1 abstract and microbiome data summary (draft and revision), Module 3 mini-report, and Module 3 research proposal.

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.

Major Assignments

Most major assignments will be submitted on submitted on Stellar .

Module Topic Assignment % of Final Grade Links to Description and/or Evaluation
1 Abstract and data summary 15 Assignment description
Primer design memo 5 Assignment description
Journal club presentation 10 Sign-up for article
Evaluation rubric (PDF download)
2 Research article 25 Assignment description
3 Research idea presentation 20 Assignment description
Evaluation rubric (PDF download)
Mini report 5 Assignment description and evaluation rubric

Daily Work

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 assistants 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)
    • About once a week you will take a short (10 min) quiz; quizzes are worth 10 pts 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, M1D3, M1D5, M1D8, M2D3, M2D5, M2D7, M3D2, M3D4, and M3D6 .
  • 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 lab report) or lab work (e.g., performing a calculation in advance). Associated points/weighting will vary widely.
    • The homeworks can be found in the "for next time" (FNT) section of each lab day.
    • 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 6 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 communications-specific assistance from dedicated Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) faculty. Writing instructors X and Ywill provide written feedback on a select few draft assignments during Modules 1 and 2. They'll also provide formal instruction on the requirements of a lab report. Finally, they are available for office hours by appointment. For oral presentation assistance, you will hear two lectures from and meet individually with 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.