20.109(F17): Assignments

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20.109(F17): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Fa17 Schedule        Announcements        Assignments        Homework        Communication
       1. Measuring Genomic Instability        2. Manipulating Metabolism        3. Engineering Biomaterials              


You will complete three experimental 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. 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 review the 20.109 statement on collaboration and integrity for details concerning academic honesty in our class. You are highly 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 Mini-presentation
  • Module 2 Research article
  • Module 2 Journal club presentation

Team assignments (40% of grade):

  • Module 1 Data summary (draft and revision)
  • Module 3 Mini-report
  • Module 3 Research proposal presentation

We appreciate that time management can be difficult and that learning takes place on many time-scales. However, assignments turned in at wildly different 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 it is late and will not be accepted after a week. We strongly recommend that you plan ahead and and schedule time to complete your work when possible.

We 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 spend a lot of time together 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 10-11 AM and 2-3 PM.

Major assignments

All major assignments will be submitted via Stellar.

Module Assignment % of final grade Links to description and/or evaluation
1 Data summary 15 Assignment description
Mini-presentation 5 Assignment description and evaluation rubric
2 Journal club presentation 15 Assignment description and article sign-up
Evaluation rubric (PDF download)
Research article 20 Assignment description
3 Research proposal presentation 20 Assignment description
Evaluation rubric (PDF download)
Mini-report 5 Assignment description and evaluation rubric

Other assignments

In addition to the assignments listed above, you will complete:

Homework assignments and Laboratory notebooks (10% of final grade)

  • Homework:
    • Homeworks are intended to keep you up to date with the material. Most 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). The associated points/weighting will vary widely between assignments and will reflect the breadth of the assignment.
    • The assignments can be found on the Homework page and are linked to the Schedule page to reflect the due date.
    • Assignments should be submitted as hardcopies at the beginning of lab. A select few assignments may be submitted on Stellar.
  • Laboratory notebook:
    • You will record your data using Benchling, an electronic notebook. One entry will be evaluated by the teaching faculty once per module.
    • Notebook due dates are M1D7, M2D8, and M3D5, and the entry that will be graded will be announced on the due date.
    • Evaluation criteria are described on the Communication page.

Participation and Blogging (5% of final grade)

  • You are expected to be an active participant in our 20.109 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.
  • Part 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.
  • In addition, the participation grade will be determined by your completing brief reflective blog posts on your 20.109 experience throughout the semester at the 20.109 Class Blog. Writing these blog posts is intended to provide you with 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 4 blog posts by the dates listed below details below:.
    • Post #1 is due by Monday, October 23rd at 10 pm.
    • Post #2 is due by Tuesday, November 21st at 10 pm.
    • Post #3 is due by Thursday, December 7th or Friday, December 8th at 10 pm, according to your laboratory section.
    • Post #4 is BONUS and due by Tuesday, December 12th at 10 pm.
  • Your posts should reflect your experience(s) in 20.109. Many students find it easiest to write about the major assignment / research completed during the module. In particular, students often create entries that detail how they prepared and where they struggled.

Quizzes (5% of final grade)

  • At the beginning of some laboratory sessions (1:05-1:15 pm), you will be given a 3-4-question 10-minute quiz. Regardless of what time you arrive, the quizzes will be collected at 1:15 pm and students who arrive after collection will not be able to complete the quiz for points.
  • 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.
  • Questions will be based on the previous week and both lecture and laboratory 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.