2020(S08) Lecture:week 6

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Week 6 Tuesday

Guest lecture: Jon Beckwith

Jon Beckwith, one of the earliest genetic engineers, will speak with our class today. Jon is a remarkable scientist who pioneered genetic research techniques that reveal fundamental properties related to protein secretion, membrane protein structure and cell division. And as you read in the chapter you were assigned from his memoir, "Making Genes Making Waves," Jon has also argued that scientists have a special duty to societybecause of the kind of work they do and has lived his life accordingly. His talk will address

  • genetics and society
  • the role of scientists from eugenics up to today
  • Science for the People
  • recombinant DNA to the Human Genome Project to today.
    He may also make passing reference to the differing trajectory of atomic physicists. We will leave time at the end for you to ask questions (either the one you brought to class or one you thought of during his lecture).


Complete your Lecture Response Log, describing what you heard today about social responsibility and how it fits or doesn't with your own belief system and plans for your career. As possible, include thoughts about the Cambridge City Council Hearings from 1976 as well as your personal experience with backyard biology and biohacking. Upload your response to the homework dropbox that's here.

Week 6 Studio

3 ideas presentation

Today we will hear from each topic area. After each presentation you will be asked to score the presentations on their relative merits according to the 4 areas you've been asked to address.

Week 6 Thursday

Project Selection Day

Today is a delicate and important day for your team since now you must decide (or set a concrete plan for deciding) which of the 3 ideas you presented yesterday is the one you'll take forward. In making this decision you have many considerations to weigh:

  1. what you've learned from the research and preparation that went into the 3 ideas presentation
  2. what your teammates have worked on and discussed
  3. what your team advisers have contributed
  4. the questions you were asked by the audience after your presentation
  5. what you heard in the other presentations (any great ideas or sobering thoughts from the work other groups have done?)
  6. the feedback on the 4 criteria for project selection (importance, impact, competing technologies, knowns/unknowns)
  7. the upcoming goals and needs that will enable your team to specify the design you choose, namely the contents of the tech spec review

Every group should begin by sharing their impressions of yesterday's 3 ideas presentations, and offering an opinion on where your team stands.

Path 1: If, after this discussion, your team is still undecided as to which project would be most appropriate to take forward, then try reading the 4 page hand-out from Peter Scholtes's Team Handbook, focusing on the steps for consensus building

  • Have someone read when to use consensus building approaches to make sure this is the appropriate approach for your group
  • Follow the tips sheet to reach consensus (or discuss then vote if that is the method your team chooses)

Once you have chosen one of the three project ideas to take forward, continue to "Path 2" if you have time or decide what you will work on between now and when we meet again next week.

Path 2: If, after the discussion about yesterday's 3 ideas presentations, your team is in agreement as to which one of the three ideas you'll take forward, then you're ready to dig into the nitty-gritty of design details and specification.

  • Begin by reviewing, as a team the deliverables for the next stage of your project, namely the tech spec review
  • Next, look carefully at one example of a technical specification, that of the "polkadorks" team from the 2004 IAP class. Their work is described here. At a minimum, you should make sure everyone on your team understands the kinds of descriptions (timing diagram vs parts list etc) that they are showing on their project page and if there's time, you might consider what needs to be done with your project idea to collect these details. There will be time next week to continue that work together.

There is no response log or personal portfolio design assignment after today's class but be sure to keep up with your "project development notebook," be it paper or electronic.