Thursday, December 11, 2014
A Balancing Act: 20.109 and 20.309
This semester, I was posed with an interesting challenge, to balance the rigors of 20.109 with 20.309. Despite the concerned looks on the faces of my fellow course 20 friends, this was hands-down my favorite semester spent at MIT. I had the unique ability to apply my understanding of microscopy or instrumentation techniques gained in 20.309 to 20.109. Each class had its own set of strengths. In 20.309, we have the unique ability to build instruments from the ground up. We learned with somewhat intimacy the innards of relatively simple but clever circuits. However, I found myself on multiple occasions asking the following questions in 20.109: “doesn’t this biological phenomena resemble a circuit or a noise filter? How would I model this as a circuit?” It became very apparent to me; biological systems are no more than circuits that follow specific governing principles. These circuits can be approximated to electrical and mechanical systems. As Professor Steve Wasserman stated in 20.309, systems are analogous. Therefore, we can model a biological system with a set of governing parameters that indeed generalize a complex biological system. By generalizing (as we had done for instance in Module 2), we are able to better understand our system and understand how perturbations would affect the system output.
I find that taking these two lab classes in the same semester has allowed me to draw more connections between the material than if I were to have taken them in separate semesters. It has allowed me to approach biological organisms as simpler signals and systems problems as opposed to being lost in complexity. Also, it has allowed me to really begin to pinpoint the fundamentals of engineering that are consistent across all engineering disciplines, such as model creation, inputs, outputs, perturbations, and optimization steps. For this reason, although it was a great deal of work, I found that the benefits of taking two intensive classes such as 20.109 and 20.309 outweighed any sleep costs.