Friday, December 12, 2014

20.109: A Class Full of Questions...

I started off 20.109 thinking that it would be a lot like working at my UROP.  In some aspects, my knowledge from previous lab experience carried over.  I knew some things about lab safety, a number of the techniques that we used I had done before, and I was familiar with some of the communication components.  I had an idea of what controls were, I'd done some cloning before, and I'd presented data in front of an audience.  That said, I think that 20.109 has been one of the technical classes that I've most enjoyed so far at MIT, partially because we did some cool science, partially because of the fun students and instructors, and partially because I actually learned a lot.

Laura and I asked a lot of questions this semester.  We were always wondering why we did things in a particular way in 20.109 when it always worked just fine when we did it another way in our past experience, and why and how certain techniques worked, and why we chose particular controls, reagents, etc.  From the answers we got, I felt like I became armed with a deeper understanding of the experiments and protocols that we ran, which I think will be useful later on when I'm running and troubleshooting more of my own experiments.

But protocol questions weren't the only ones I asked this past semester.  Through the communications assignments we completed, I interrogated my data, class data, and data in the literature.  Why did my experimental results turn out differently from everyone else's?  What kind of troubleshooting can we use to get this experiment to work the way we want?  What do these results mean?  Do I believe the results I'm getting?

Outside of class, I also asked myself lots of questions related to 20.109 and to life in general.  Why did I procrastinate this assignment?  How am I going to get sleep tonight?  Am I going to make it back from my lunch break on time for the lab treat?  Do I like wet lab work?  Do I want to do 20.109-like work for the rest of my life?  Do I want to do 20.109 work for the rest of this afternoon?

So, 20.109 got me asking lots of questions.  Some of them had straight-forward answers, and some of them I'm still working on.  I'm not sure I'll ever get all of the answers I was hoping for.  But I'll do my best to try!

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