Thursday, December 11, 2014

A reflection on 20.109

This class was my first true experience with intensive wet lab work. Most of my experiences before 20.109 had encompassed apparatus engineering and field work, nothing of which involved engineering a biological organism. This class provided me with many “firsts” and I am very grateful for them. I would have never imagined creating a biologically-based solar cell or bacterial photographs! There are a variety of techniques we have learned over the past semester but the part I am most excited about is the variety of applications we can branch into using our knowledge gained in the department of biological engineering. From 20.109, I have become increasingly interested in the modifications of pre-existing systems to create a novel product. As students of biological engineering, we are driven by our imaginations and learn a very useful tool, how to think like an engineer. We are equipped with and well-versed in scientific concepts taught in previous classes and now we have the ability to construct in 20.109.
My favorite module was Module 3 in which we constructed dye-sensitized solar cells using genetically modified bacteriophages. Within this module, we were able to take the advantages of phages (ie their easy replicability, uniform length and width) and create nanowires with the phages. This project first required Professor Belcher to combine her understanding of multiple biological processes and non-biological processes (such as semiconductor creation or solar cell function) to generate this novel idea of optimizing dye-sensitized solar cells using phage nanowires. This approach of modifying biology to enhance a non-biological process was very inspiring to see, let alone do. I hope to look for future classes that involve this fusion of understanding and innovation. This module has opened my eyes to a different yet similar field of engineering which encompasses materials science.
            I would not have been able to have been successful this semester without the amazing help and guidance of all of the 20.109 professors and staff! This has been a great and inspiring semester. Overall, I am very grateful for having the opportunity to not only perform wet lab work but also participate in really hot research topics. I really enjoyed that everything we learned about in the class, we did. It was a hands-on approach to learning that honestly is much more effective for learners like myself. Learning by doing. Mens et manus.

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