Friday, May 15, 2015

How to trick yourself into thinking you’re writing the module report

I would like to share with you an amazing strategy I have had the pleasure of discovering via 20.109 this semester.

You see, through tireless effort, countless attempts, and endless hours dedicated to grinding out reports for this course, I have finally discovered the most optimal procrastination technique. It is so effective, in fact, that at times it will irrefutably convince you that it is not procrastination, but work of the utmost and immediate importance. It may seem difficult to implement at first glance, but believe me, once you train yourself to stop the urge to write your results down and get the report over with, you will find this technique very easy to master and even quite enjoyable. In the end, you might figure that is it too overwhelming or unnecessary to actually write the report anyway, and your problem is solved!

Curious? There are two key steps to for this process to work.

1. Read all of the related literature. ALL of it. Read it in depth and pay attention to all the details. Follow the tangentially-related references and whatever you do, don’t stop reading until you have learned the complete history and entire current state of the field.

Figure 1: Schematic demonstrating the process from a more relatable starting point. However, this is biological engineering research, so I recommend you begin the voyage from PubMed, or at least google scholar. (Xkcd 2007).

     I know, it sounds quite challenging at first. After all, you might just read a few papers and feel like you have a pretty good understanding of what is going on in general and how it fits into the experiments you did in class. DO NOT LET THIS FEELING FOOL YOU. I repeat, you have not learned enough yet. For example, you have to understand that it’s important to read beyond just all of the literature on “Ku80 related NHEJ-repair in CHO cells,” which is probably under 10 papers anyway. Have you at least learned everything on Ku80? Do you understand its crystal structure? What--you didn’t know the crystal structure was elucidated in 2001? How are you to possibly understand the molecular mechanism by which it resects double stranded DNA breaks? Aren’t you curious about the differential repair results of your specific cut topology? I mean it’s your precious, darling, unique break-site architecture for crying out loud! Once you sufficiently feel like you understand enzyme-DNA dynamics, you can move onto exploring the all of DNA repair, or at least homologous repair which you can frequently mentally compare. Don’t forget to really explore all the sub-branches, mechanisms, and implications. It’s also really important that you don’t have a system for organizing all the useful portions of the literature that you read—downloading entire pdfs and dumping them into a folder or bookmarking the tab (try to keep switching it up for fun) should work fine. If there’s anything you don’t understand, a method or a term, immediately open a new tab (Figure 1) and learn about that until your computer overheats or the deadline for the report has passed.

Take home message: Don’t feel limited in your exploration! Remember, the point of your MIT education is to learn as much as possible.

2. Make all of your figures before you write anything. Then continuously remake them. Generate many types of visuals from the same data set. Keep changing them as you find little errors or large mistakes in reasoning. This is the fun part, so give yourself every excuse to keep working on them.

       Ok, now that you have sharpened your critical reading skills, it’s time to move on to the artsy design skills you’ve dreamed of developing ever since you first used Microsoft paint in second grade. In fact, for nostalgia or for lack of more complex software, you should probably do all your figures in Microsoft paint. Sure you can plan them out in PowerPoint or Illustrator, but make sure to always drift back to Paint for any finishing touches. See how fun it is to manipulate each pixel? There is such a joy in eyeballing where things should be without those pesky guidelines always snapping and giving away the alignment solution! Make sure to spend a lot of time on font, text size, color palette, and especially about positioning the images into your report. This last step is particularly key because you have no idea how the text in your report is going to ultimately look like, so you might as well define it with images first. The text will then easily follow into the spaces you’ve confined. After all, if your report doesn’t look publication quality then how can it possibly contain useful information? So definitely make sure that the figures, and not the text, carry your research. This is also where many versions of the same image come in—if it doesn’t look “nice” then have you tried changing the significance threshold so your error bars are smaller? You might as well take off the bottom error bars that annoyingly cross the axis anyway, since your audience is scientifically literate and understands that the range is symmetrical. Also, try to log transform your data and otherwise deviate from any “overly-simple” representation to really show that you are a researcher concerned with presenting compelling and clear visual results. Oh god wait—is that a formatting inconsistency? Remake them and watch as they grow more beautiful and more plentiful! Hopefully someday research can progress where readers can follow the images and just read between the lines, you know? Then you don’t have to explain anything; just look at the graph people! After you’ve exhausted all possible data files and their representations, you should contemplate picking up the hobby as a children’s picture book author, which is perfectly suited for your visually-dominating, textually-minimalistic approach.

      Congratulations! After these steps you should have a lot more files on your computer than when you started! Wow, you really have done so much work on this report; you temporarily know everything ever and just look at all those figures!! In fact, at this point you should feel pretty finished, since the remainder of the report is just filling in the words—trivial.  In fact, it probably feels pointless to detail your results now anyway since you’ve realized it’s all mostly been done before, more carefully and much more impressively.

      So you should probably just go take a nap, since it took a lot of effort and time to truly master the most productive procrastination approach to large writing projects. You only lose 1/3 of a grade for late work, so I encourage you to continue implementing this process after the initial due date. Good luck! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Platinum and Titanium and Gold

The final written report for 20.109 was a summary of sorts, covering the construction and testing of our dye sensitized solar cells. Before I started this module, the idea that I could coax viruses into growing precious metals seemed ridiculous. How was I supposed to convince a tiny little phage to make gold and titanium nanotubes that would become part of a solar cell?

51 Corgi GIFs That Will Change Your Life
What? They can do that? I had no idea that they could do that!

The answer? Through a lot of cooling and mixing of the phage in nanoparticles of gold and titanium oxide. The nanotubes were eventually integrated into a dyed paste that became the heart of our solar cell. All of the 20.109 teams were able to test their solar cells in a solar simulator in the Belcher lab. We didn’t do too bad at all - our little solar cell had 2.8% efficiency (to put that number into perspective, one of the highest solar cell efficiencies in the history of 20.109 was around 4%)! We got a chance to see the titanium and gold structures under a TEM later on. While gold was hard to find, our solar cell had a ton of crystallized titanium, and even displayed some phage-length titanium wires!

51 Corgi GIFs That Will Change Your Life
We did it!!!!!!

But back to the Mod 3 summary. While we had been having fun assembling our solar cells and seeing them in action, we still couldn’t slide away into the summer without analyzing our data. We got all of the solar cell data and TEM images and started typing away. This was when I really was happy to have the Platinum team of three. Sure, we were that team in the back of the lab, the overflow team, the team that had to constantly re-divide tasks between three people no matter how awkward it was (cough, tissue culture hoods, cough), and the team that an extra set of samples to analyze in one module. We also didn’t know one another that well at the beginning of the semester. Like Will said, the first couple of weeks was a lot of tripping over one another and forgetting to grab extra buffers and water because we had another set of samples to run through. But as the weeks went on, we figured out a way to assembly line a lot of the procedures, and soon we weren’t always the last group to exit the lab. We subbed for one another when club trips happened and we always had things to chat about during the awkward 10min incubation times that came up. So when we had to write a report summary in 4 hours that last day in lab, we quickly got working away, automatically splitting the summary into sections due to our strengths, but also leaving time for all of us to discuss the results together and come up with a consensus on how to interpret it.

We saw that the size of the gold nanoparticles didn’t have much of an effect on the efficiencies of the solar cells and that the differences in dye absorption between the T/Th and W/F classes made a large disparity in the final solar cell efficiencies. We puzzled over the lack of gold in our TEM images and contemplated future changes that we could make to the solar cells to make them more efficient (Thinner doctor blading? Longer gold incubation times?). We finished and left early(!) and walked back home, ready to meet up later that weekend to work on our research proposal. We still had that last presentation to do but for a last day in lab? Not bad. And we came so far since the first day.

And with the leaves, we leave 20.109

In one moment, I was taking the pink laser pointer from Jenny and stepping forward to discuss the methods of our research proposal, in the next I was answering questions about the formation of G-wires, and then I was finally (shakily) taking a seat back in the audience for the rest of the WF 20.109 final presentations.

It didn’t hit me until I walked past the chirping walk signs across a green, leafy Mass Ave that it was my last official day of 20.109. Whoa. It’s been a long three? Four? Four months. And a ton has happened since the first day.

I admit it, I totally included leaves in the title of this blog post just so I could add this adorable gif

I wasn’t sure what to make of this class on that first Tuesday of spring semester. It looked simple enough on my registration form - a requirement for my major, a CI-M, and a class that included lab time. I thought it would be like any other class, except that I would trade the constant lecture hall for a lab bench and science articles for psets. It would be simple, walk in lab, walk out with data, and I would pick up some lab techniques on the way, riiiiiiight?

Happily enough, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I might have disagreed on the “happily” part while on the dark, stormy seas of writing the Mod2 report, but in the end, I gained so much more than I was expecting. I learned how to work with tissue cultures, how to not load a DNA gel, how to check for the probability of homodimerism and heterdimerism in primers, how to find a variety of species in a microbiome, how to commit viruses to “growing” precious metals, and much, much more. I learned how to write scientific papers and give professional proposals and presentations. Heck, I learned how to prepare to write papers and proposal and presentations (the number of times I would have been truly screwed on a mod report if I hadn’t been forced to write drafts earlier as homework is laughable). I learned the basics of what a life might be like in research. And I got a good course in how-to-deal-with-all-nighters 101… as well as what-you-can-do-to-avoid-all-nighters-101 and how-important-sleep-is-when-writing-anything-101.

I walked out of this class knowing that even if I got thrown into a new project with a few procedures and a topic to chase, I could work towards understanding the background literature and make some progress on moving the project forward through tests and assays. The wide range of topics we covered - from characterizing microbiomes with, to testing the DNA repair abilities of cells in the context of cancer, to designing solar cells - gave me a great snapshot of the different fields that I can explore in the future. Ultimately, this class taught me the steps I can take to learn how to conduct research, an important method for any engineer.

Thanks to all of the wonderful instructors and TAs and professors that made this possible! 20.109 was definitely a big surprise this semester (wait… this is not just a lab technique class… what?), but one that came out for the best!

Now, onto the adventure… finals. See you all on the other side!

The End is Just the Beginning

My days in 20.110 may be over, but the 2nd half of my MIT experience will begin soon enough. There's a pretty good chance I might not write my thesis on the seagull microbiome or work specifically on NHEJ DNA repair, but that (hopefully) doesn't mean that all the work I've done this past semester has been for naught. I've learned a lot about experimental design from the setting up controls and the prevention of variables that could confound the data. I've also learned some of the jargon of biological engineers and have become more experienced in scientifically writing about the introduction, methods, results and discussion of a lab report. These skills greatly help me to effectively communicate and investigate interesting biological systems.

The 20.110 experience also showed me how important (yet difficult) it can be to stay up to date with various innovations in the biological engineering world. The rate at which new technologies and experiments are being performed, there's so many interesting resources and ideas flowing to tackle several modern day problems. That being said, communication and discussion among peers is a great resource, and even asking for help and advice from mentors and experts can provide guidance about different ways to go about solving a problem. I really appreciate all the 20.109 staff for being open and making time to discuss ideas with the students, it was very reassuring to know that support was available even if at times, I went about doing assignment in my own way.

In the future, I hope that my experience at 20.109 will have prepared me for upcoming challenges of future lab classes as well as UROP work. I know I still need to work on my communication and hope to take the initiative to find opportunities to speak and present to others about interesting research going on in the field of biological engineering. One of the fields that I am currently interested in is synthetic biology, which incorporates cellular transcriptional circuits. There is still much about this field that is new to me, but I hope that as I learn more about the field, I can take some opportunities to share the exciting things that I am learning with others.

Wait, there's no Mod 4?

It's pretty hard to believe that my time in 109 is really over. Certainly, a lot has happened over this semester. Most importantly, I believe that I have taken steps in becoming a better communicator in regards to science. I am more confident presenting something like a Journal Club and I am even more confident presenting a research proposal of my own devise. I have made significant progress in my scientific writing throughout this class. I think each module uniquely supplemented the learning experience.

Mod1: This module had some pretty awesome real-world connections to the flu and it opened my eyes to the immense complexity and function of the microbiome. Now, to be honest, I could not see myself a lab studying the microbiome as a UROP or anything, but I can't ignore the numerous benefits of studying it. Mod1 introduced me to how to write a structured scientific paper. I had a little trouble analyzing the data because I felt like I was stretching, but I put a lot of effort into making important connections. It was nice to have a rough and final draft on that report as I really was just trying to figure out my scientific voice at that point. The primer design was a really cool part of the module and I think that is a lab skill that can be very important in other lab work. Professor Runstadler was a great help throughout the process and I think he did an awesome job as the figurehead of the module.

Mod2: Not to pick favorites, but Mod2 was my favorite module. More than anything, I think this can be related to the fact that I really understood the material and the processes. I could much more easily analyze the data and come up with better discussion points that conveyed how well I understood the material in general. I became way better at writing a methods section (thank goodness), although that's still my absolute least favorite part of scientific writing. My abstract was more clear and stronger. Attributed to a great understanding of the workings of this module, my results section was able to very clearly and concisely illustrate the data from this module and the discussion nicely provided the necessary depth to the overall project. I think Mod2 was a great leap in my ability to be a scientific writer, maybe it was a matter of being more comfortable in the class. All the practice and the reviews from Mod1 certainly helped. Professor Samson was fantastic.

Mod3: I liked the uniqueness that came with Mod3; the class definitely took a more engineering approach at this point with optimization and solar cell efficiency. I was introduced to very new concept with the material growing/binding phage. Also, getting to use the TEM was really awesome. It's amazing some of the things we are capable of seeing at the molecular level. No matter the efficiency of my solar cell, I really enjoyed constructing the solar cell and seeing that it actually managed to have some current, if only a little. My favorite part of this module, though, was the novel research proposal. I'm really excited about what Sonia and I were able to put together. It was so cool seeing it developing in our minds and then coming to life in the presentation. I felt really confident while presenting. It was actually a really fun process - great news for a person strongly considering grad school. Professor Belcher is awesome and it was so nice how much effort she put in coming to our lab class often and helping us through the research proposals.

Overall, I would definitely call the class a success overall. I met some really great people all around and learned a lot. It was rough at a few points, but it was also often quite fun.

Thank you immensely to all the instructors, Noreen, Leslie, and Shannon. It really meant a lot that you put so much effort into this class and were always so willing to help out. The TAs were also a great help throughout the modules.

Thanks 109. This is a big step in the Course 20 journey!

Final Words on a Final 20.109 Presentation

Hooray! I can't believe 20.109 is finally done. It was definitely one of the most interesting and time-consuming classes of my MIT career so far. From microbiome to DNA repair to virus solar cells, we've really come far. Especially the final lab class where we had our research proposal presentations, I saw so much improvement among my peers as well as myself.

Up until the day of the proposal I was so nervous. My partner and my research proposal was a proof of principle to test whether Antibody-KillerRed conjugates (AKRC) were an effective means for specific cancer therapy. I never realized how much work and research went into coming up with a novel idea (or even to build upon and optimize existing systems). Sometimes, I even worried that idea was too similar or not novel enough. At times like that, I realized the best thing we could do would be to continue scanning through literature to find ways to improve and develop our research ideas.

As well, with journal presentations being all the way back in module 1, I had butterflies in my stomach thinking about giving our presentation. So many details to not forget to include, not to mention the added element of having two presenters and the need to have a balanced pitch. As well, we had to compliment our slides because our styles of presentations were different, there needed to be constant dialogue about ideas. At one point, when we thought we were almost done, I found an error in one of experimental designs (our positive test would not work under our current test conditions) and we frantically sought a replacement to fix the problem. Then finally at 12:40 AM the night before, we put the finishing touches to our assignment, practiced our presentation a few times and rested for the coming day.

Presentation was scary, but I was glad that we went 2nd. I had enough time to calm my nerves without becoming more anxious in waiting. When we got up to present, I felt much different than I had in journal presentations. Although I might have still been nervous, speaking became much easier and when I did get stressed, I took a deep breath and was able to get back on track. In the end, I'm so thankful for all the support that the 20.109 staff and my peers provided. The 20.109 experience has indeed been a rich experience that I feel will have a lasting impact in the rest of my semesters here at MIT.

Mod 3 I messed up our solar cell

Even though Mod 3 was short, I really enjoyed it once I realized what was going on. Using bacteriophages to grow nanowires? That's like some real sci-fi stuff there. As I said, I was a little confused by everything first, as in which part did what but at some point during one of the lectures, I finally wrapped my head around it.

So all was going well at first, I even survived without Cortni one day and did the M3D2 experiments and calculations myself (#calculationstruggles). When it got to assembling the solar cell, we even doctor bladed pretty well as far as we could tell. Everything seemed like it was going smoothly. And then the final assembly took place and I ruined it. When putting the cover over the paste, I happened to rub off a decent chunk of the dye that was there. Whoops. Oh well. So now we had a semi-functional solar cell with a whopping 0.5% efficiency...

As they say, better luck next time. After reducing our area calculations though, efficiency went up to 1%, suggesting that maybe if I hadn't messed it up, our solar cell would've been fine and dandy. But as my dad says, not everyone can be a winner.

After this disappointment, the long-awaited TEM day arrived when we would get to see our beautiful nanowires. So the green team and platinum team cram into the TEM room waiting patiently to see the image on the screen and then the smart Asian guy pulls up the image. It looks like a gray blob. Prof. Belcher started to explain the different parts of the gray blob. This slightly dark blob was a crystal composite, this black blob was gold. I almost felt like we were looking at a baby in an ultrasound video. When my aunt was pregnant, my dad was somehow able to point out all the portions of my future cousin while all I saw was some blackish-blue background and white-lined curves. In the end though, this was our little baby. Though I couldn't really tell what everything was, I was proud that we had made this functional thing.

Methods to the Madness

In my UROP at the Weng Lab at the Whitehead Institute, I will start to write a paper soon and 20.109 has immensely helped with being prepared for this. My PI often says, “Start with the methods section, it’s the easiest part!” and I do think this is true, but only with experience. Writing the methods section from scratch has actually proved to be a much more involved task than I initially thought. Even though it a factual procedure, synthesizing it from our protocols and making sure to have precise diction and all the necessary components, but without extraneous specifics, took quite a lot of practice.

I think the revisions helped a lot, but I also think it would have been helpful to go through more example methods sections before we began to see the expectations (although it is easy to look them up ourselves). It was really good practice; in writing the methods section, I was able to really understand not only what we did, but why (sequentially and conceptually). During lab, it can often be fast-paced, and even though we have the pre-labs, it’s easy to forget the specifics of the protocol and reasoning when looking back to write it up. Although sometimes lab felt like a frenzy of moving around small liquids, it turns out there were methods to the madness.

But does it work for as a methods section? Unfortunately not…

Saying Goodbye (and a couple of other things)

Goodbye 20.109.

I wish I could say that I’m going to miss you, but to be completely honest (and I’m all about honesty here in this relationship of ours), I’m rather relieved, and more than a little happy to be saying goodbye.

There were ups and downs this last semester. The downs were pretty down: namely stressful nights trying to complete homework assignments and huge reports, failing around like a newborn baby trying not to drown because I didn’t know what on earth I was doing the whole time, twisted knots in my stomach before presentations, etc. I suppose these were all part of the learning experience. Today, Shannon mentioned that it was the teaching staff’s intention to throw us into the deep end so that we could learn from our own mistakes, trials, and errors. I’d have to say that this tough-love approach is surprisingly effective. Sure, every time I was on the verge of drowning in the deep-end, I felt upset and whined a little more than I realistically should have, but now that I know how to swim (or can at least stay afloat!), I realize that I probably would have learned a lot less if I had just been spoon fed material and expectations. There is something about fighting and struggling for every inch that makes getting there so much more rewarding. I would say that if given the choice, I would do it all again, knowing that it would be worth it in the end.

In the same vein, the ups were pretty up (I don’t think this is appropriate grammar, but oh well, this isn’t a grammar class per-se): feeling the thrill of finishing journal club and group presentations, turning in the written reports at the end of each module, testing our solar cells in the solar simulator, seeing real gold nanoparticles on the TEM, etc.

I guess there is something masochistic about being in science. You have to put yourself through a lot of failure, a lot of stress, a lot of frustration, and a lot of wishing you were somewhere else doing anything else, just to get to that happy happy happy feeling of having done something right or of having accomplished something useful, or perhaps even groundbreaking.

So what I’m saying is thank you for making my life miserable for a semester, it was worth every hour of distress.

Though a lot of what I’ve said may have seemed quite vague, I would concretely say that my presentation skills have improved dramatically since the beginning of the semester. I used to get nervous before having to speak in front of people, getting sweaty palms and the uncomfortable twisting of my stomach that make sitting still impossible. But after this semester, I felt like all of the feedback from journal club I and the all of the practice that I put into both presentations has made me a better speaker, or, at the very least, a less nervous speaker. I was excited on Wednesday to go up with Tara and share our proposal with the rest of the class. The great thing is that public speaking skills like this are extremely useful in real life too, so thank you for that, 20.109.

Before I say a real goodbye and turn in my last blog post and last assignment of this entire class, I want to extend a huge thank you to all of the teaching staff and everyone that made this possible:

Thank you Noreen, Leslie, and Shannon for guiding us through these modules, for answering all of our questions, for teaching us how to be better science communicators, for bringing snacks, and for being there for us outside of just lab work too.

Thank you to all of my peers (shout out to Tara, the best lab partner ever!) for being a wonderful group of labmates, for helping with peer editing, for making me laugh, and for making it through this semester alive with me.

Thank you to all of the TAs who helped with all of the set-up, who helped us through the procedures, and who we couldn’t have done these modules without.

Thank you Professor Runstadler, Professor Samson, and Professor Belcher for giving us the opportunity to test and hone our skills in each of the three fascinating modules, for taking time out of your day to teach us what you know, for offering to talk with us about whatever, for giving us a taste of what it’s like being in biological engineering and research science.

And with that, goodbye 20.109, it was nice knowing you. 

I am so done with this class

Things I learned in 20.109 (a non-comprehensive list (also, note: I have no more energy to put a positive spin on things))

  • How to cite journal articles without plugging everything into EasyBib (the lazy person's bibliography generator). It actually is now faster to type out the citation myself!
  • Better communication skills(?) Although, in my opinion, the more you write, the better you get, just from sheer amount of practice, regardless of the kind of feedback you receive. While we did get a lot of feedback during the course, which I tried to address in later drafts, I'm not sure how much I actually internalized to be really mindful of when I'm writing something for the first time. Most of the writing lectures seemed to reiterate ideas that I had already previously heard from somewhere else. 
  • Powerpoint presentations are 76% better when animations are used. 
  • Addendum to last point: the title of slides should have the punchline.
  • How to be less of a perfectionist. Secret: stop caring. I usually get very stressed out about grades, but this class definitely made me so overwhelmed that I just gave up and only focused on completing an assignment and turning it in as soon as possible. 
  • How to pull an all-nighter. Who needs supplements like coffee or energy drinks when you have panic and hopelessness to propel you? Bonus for pulling multiple all-nighters in a row. 
  • Sometimes, people in authority don't have all the answers. 
  • Strong bonds are formed from shared misery. Also, being awake at absurd hours with others, furiously racing a deadline to finish an assignment. 
  • Maybe Course 20 is not for me. (but there's nothing else I would do preferentially). I went through some mid-college crisis where I thought all of my classes were useless and I didn't understand the point of anything that we had to do. (This correlated directly with the amount of work for 20.109). 
  • Nothing is quite as motivating as trying to get out of lab as soon as possible.
  • I don't think I want to ever do anything related to the microbiome ever again. 
  • Flow cytometry is not that interesting. Unfortunately for me, I'll probably be doing flow all summer, only with 12 colors.

Reflecting on reflecting

Is it too “meta” to be writing a blog post about writing blog posts? I wanted to comment on the blog post writing assignments though, and how I think they are actually a really important part of the 20.109 curriculum.

I was thinking back to a lot of my other classes that I’ve taken here and I realized that for the most part, as soon as I finish a test, I forget a lot of the material (if not all) that I have just learned. It is hard to retain information when you are not constantly using or thinking about it, and once the pressure of having to do well on an exam has passed, you have little incentive to keep thinking about the subject.

The same is true for 20.109 in some regards. This phenomenon was most noticeable for me after the Mod2 report was due. I had stayed up for over 24 hours, working furiously to not only get words on to paper, but to learn about and fully understand all the concepts necessary to write a coherent paper. Things were going so quickly that I hardly even noticed when 5pm came and went. The paper was submitted and suddenly it felt like the raging cloud of stress and pressure had been lifted. I proceeded to forget about that dark time in my life (sleep deprivation is no fun) for a little while, blissfully unburdened. I had poured so much effort into that paper, but as is frequently the case, when something is done too quickly, a lot of things fail to stick.

However, because I had to write a blog post by 5pm the next day, I was forced to sit down and reflect on what had just happened. Reflection is powerful and not only can lead to useful insights and thoughts, but also requires you to relive and reinforce your memories of important things. It was a way for me to process what had just happened to me and I think it helped me better understand more about my work process. There is always room for improvement and reflecting is a good way to start.

Writing all of these blog posts now at the end of the class has also led me to an appreciation of everything that we’ve done so far. During the semester, I felt a strong urge to complain about all of the work that we had to do but my anger was most likely misplaced stress. Looking back, I feel like a more confident writer, and certainly a more confident speaker and presenter than I was before. The best way to learn things is to just do them, so being thrown into the deep end like we were was probably for the better. Taking the time to write these reflections on different aspects of Mod3 and the class in general is a very cathartic experience and I encourage future students to really take advantage of writing these blog posts to really think about and learn from the past. 

It's Over

Although this was one of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken, I am sad that it’s over. It’s definitely a bittersweet moment now that I realize that all the modules are done. Now all that’s keeping me from finishing this class is this blog post. As I look back to where this started, I realize how much I grew especially in the lab and in writing and presentation. This class allowed me to practice my pipetting skills. It taught me how much effort goes into a science paper and how to properly write one. It even helped me get over my fear of public speaking.

When I first came into 20.109, I was unsure what to expect. It was my first time taking a class without anyone I knew pretty well. None of my course 20 friends were taking 20.109 this semester. Entering this class alone was a scary moment. It was like moving to a new school all over again. However over the course of this semester, I was able to meet new people and make new friends, especially my teammates as they were the only ones that understood the true importance of seating assignments. We were in the back corner of our lab and seemed to be missing lab equipment on a daily basis. But, we never felt forgotten. I feel extremely lucky to be part of the only three person team this semester. The other students of this class were also the only ones that understood the pain of taking this lab class along with everything else. We trudged through the seemingly unrelentless homework assignments; we pulled all-nighters alongside each other as we tried to perfect our writing assignments which we never seemed to start on time; and most importantly, we improved our lab and writing skills together.

What I’m most appreciative of from this class is not what I was able to gain out of it, but the instructors, professors, and TAs. The amount of effort it seems us students put into the class never seemed to equal the amount of time the instructors, professors, and TAs put into it. I always received extremely helpful and thought out comments on everything I turned in, and was always amazed at the dedication they put into this class. They were willing to stay countless hours after lab ended to finish whatever we couldn’t. They were willing to sacrifice their own time on weekends to offer office hours for the big assignments or spend it trying to fix whatever happened to our data from Module 1. And even more, after it was done, they wanted to know what they could do better for the next set of students. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough.

The fact that this class is coming to an end is dawning on me now as I am about to submit this final blog post. I will truly, truly miss this class now that it’s over. 

The Research Proposal

The research proposal required a lot more work than I thought it was going to. I think the big difference in my experience when compared with other people’s experience is that I was part of a 3 person team. Although this meant we each could speak for less during the actual presentation, this also meant 3 different working styles and 3 different schedules to find time to work on this together. Despite these challenges, I think we did a relatively good job on this project.

It turned out that Kristina and Will had found similar papers on DNA electronics, and after talking about it, we all agreed that this was probably the coolest paper out of all the papers we found. However, this topic was definitely out of the scope of bioengineering any of us had done. We had to read so many papers to actually figure out what we wanted to test and actually understand what was being done in this field.

Finding a time to meet was probably the hardest problem. Working together during the day was pretty much out of the question as we all had classes to attend. Finding a time during the evening to meet up didn't work as we all had extracurriculars that pretty much ended at 7 or 8. Thus, we pretty much only met up at night. We saw each other on a daily basis to work on this. The day before the presentation we went to a class on campus to practice using an actual projector. With the last minute alterations to the slides and constructive criticism of each other’s parts, we were there on campus from 10-2:30 at night. Our hard work paid off though after we presented. For myself, my fear of public speaking went down—which I measure by the amount my hand was shaking. (It definitely shook a lot less than my journal club presentation as when I used the laser pointer it didn't go all over the place.) Working with this many people on a project definitely emphasized the importance of collaboration and teamwork, something I will take with me in the future years.

Also…Team Platinum forever!

The BE communications lab

For the big Mod 2 paper, I decided to use the BE communications center to get some advice on my almost-final product. I must say, it was really a helpful resource and I find it cool that BE has its own little communication center.

At the beginning of the semester, the communications lab was mentioned as a resource we could use for our assignments but I didn't think I'd ever really go. I mean, it requires more time and effort and for me to leave my bed, which is difficult to say the least.

But after Mod 1, I realized that I needed to step it up with my writing skills and that these assignments weren't like a HASS class cake walk. So when the Mod 2 report rolled around, I decided it was time to take action and put forth my very best product. This class was the first time that I had to write big sciencey reports and it was really showing in my work.

So I met with Sean Kearney who I think is a grad student here and he gave me some pointers on my report and offered a new perspective. He gave me some advice on how to make my writing more clear and more scientific, after all, I am used to pure English frolicking-in-the-fields type writing. We got to focus on my whole report instead of me just asking questions about specific portions, which was really helpful overall on editing. He even gave me some new ideas on the science itself for the discussion portion which I hadn't even thought of.

After this semester, I'll definitely use the BE communications lab again for future writings and assignments. Now I appreciate this cool resource we have at our disposal.

Already Reaping the Benefits

I had to give a group meeting in my UROP a couple weeks ago and I can definitely say that without this class I would not have been able to present a “professional-worthy” talk. For my journal club in my lab I presented “Ex vivo culture of circulating breast tumor cells for individualized testing of drug susceptibility” by Min Yu et al. It’s a pretty interesting paper for anyone who wants to read it. This paper is even from around the area (from the Haber lab in Massachusetts General Hospital!)

Even if this journal club presentation wasn’t for a grade, I was going to present this to a whole new audience—grad students, postdocs, and my PI who were already proficient in this area. I put in probably more work into this than the journal club I gave in 20.109 so I could leave a good impression on them. Thank goodness for our journal club in 20.109. Because of that assignment I was able to receive comments on my presenting skills and knew what a journal club presentation should look like. I took into consideration my constructive criticism into account from my one on one meeting with Atissa on presenting and slide content when preparing my talk. I made my titles the takeaway point for each slide; I made each slide uncluttered; and I made the figures easier to read for better understanding. When I presented I stood at a 45 degree angle and tried not to play with my hands. At the end, I left the conclusion slide up and just asked if they had any questions instead of making an individual blank slide with just the word questions on it. All in all, my lab said they were pretty impressed by my presentation. This would not have been possible without the helpful comments I received on my journal club presentation in 20.109 and I am eternally grateful. Not even out of 20.109 and I am already reaping the benefits of from this class. 

A World without Wrinkles

Tara and I are going to rid the world of the horrible skin disease known as wrinkles.

After 12 nerve-wracking minutes in front of the class, nifty laser-pointer in hand, the Red team closed out 20.109 with the last team presentation of the year.

The assignment: Devise a novel research idea and pitch it your peers and professors.

I was daunted at first at the idea of having to come up with something that had never been done before. In my mind, it seemed like the assignment was asking me to delve into the realm of science fiction and some unfathomable black hole of science that was far too advanced for me (OK, I was probably being a little too melodramatic).

We started out by brainstorming which module we wanted to base our research on. Mod1 and our investigation of the bird microbiome was the springboard for our final project, both of us excited by an offhanded comment that was discussed during the journal club presentations. The possibility of the use of the microbiome in forensic investigations was brought up briefly and the prospect of applying science to crime solving was fascinating.

I read a lot of papers on the development of microbiome analysis of hairs found at crime scenes, which lead me to papers about the diverse, yet also unique, microbiome of the skin. When Tara and I reconvened, we shared the different research that we had done on a variety of topics and honed in on one particularly interesting review paper on the skin microbiome by EA Grice.

While reading the future works section, we found the following statement: “The role of microbiota in skin aging, such as wrinkling and sagging, remains unclear and is an area where treatments based on the skin microbiota may offer promise”. At first we laughed at the prospect of studying wrinkles (isn’t that a field riddled with hokey, money-grabbing claims, cures, and remedies?). But then, we thought about it, did some investigation on the subject and found that it was a problem wide open for research. We had found our novel idea and we were going to run with it. (Turns out people actually take your future works sections seriously).

The thing about novel ideas is that there are bucket loads of questions that need to be answered, tangential problems that need to be considered. We did a lot of reading on wrinkles, skin aging, the skin microbiome, etc. and began pitching our ideas to the teaching staff and our peers.

For the most part, our idea was met with laughs and offhanded comments about wrinkly skin. Perhaps we found the idea too amusing for our own good but we took the beginning of our preparatory phase a little too lightly, tackling the problem at too broad of a level. It wasn’t until the day before the presentation that we realized we were lacking answers to some major questions and entered a frenzy of paper reading, interspersed with PowerPoint assembly and verbal practice.

Finally, our presentation came together and after 12 minutes (that I think went swimmingly!) we were done. And we had formulated a fairly coherent proposal for wrinkle microbiome research and a potential novel preventative treatment. It was a fun thought exercise and I learned a lot more about wrinkles and bacteria than I thought I would ever know. 

Mission Possible

Mod 3 Goal: Develop a research proposal.

Vipul and I decided on our exact idea in a kind of backwards way. Vipul had found a technology that he found really interesting -- the Spinach aptamer had been recently developed to bind to a fluorophore to fluoresce. Spinach could be conjugated with an aptamer for some other small molecule to act as a sensor for that small molecule. We both agreed that this system could have a lot of useful applications.

We had an idea of what the technology we would use, but we really struggled with figuring out an effective and useful application. Our first thought was to something with metabolites in cancer. Maybe Spinach could be used as a detection system? But the aptamer was really good for looking across several time points, and detection is often just concerned with one time point. Next, we brought our idea to Leslie, who offered some ideas in direction we could take. Thanks to Leslie's advice, our next line of thinking focused on research out of the Vander Heiden lab, which dealt with the differences in metabolism in cancer cells compared to normal cells. Perhaps a way to look at levels of metabolites over time would be useful? We toyed with this idea for a full day, before discarding after taking a more closer look at papers the lab produced. We had found that their current methods were already sufficient because they did not need to look at multiple time points, just only up/down regulation of a particular gene. 

Finally, we decided on an idea that Vipul had on the first day of brainstorming -- development, in which small molecule morphogens dictate cell fate based on local concentration. While initially, I was not really sold on the idea because I honestly had no interest in embryonic development, I thought that it actually was the most promising direction. We settled on the small molecule morphogen retinoic acid because Vipul already knew of it off the top of his head (?). We did things kind of backwards in that we came up with the application after we decided on the 'solution'. Furthermore, for us, I think the hardest part was just coming up with the idea itself. Because all the technologies and protocols already existed, and the novel part was just the way we put things together, all the details just fell into place after reading a few more articles. I am convinced that our idea is completely feasible and could very realistically be someone's master's thesis, if they were so inclined. 

This experience reminded me of when I was in 11th grade, I participated in iGEM (trying to compete in the college competition as part of Duke University.) iGEM had absolutely no infrastructure, and at that point in time, I had never worked in a lab before. When they told us that we had to come up with our own project related to synthetic biology and carry it out on our own with no guidance from grad students, I definitely floundered and eventually dropped out, and instead, worked in another lab that summer under a grad student (thankfully). I am more convinced that I was incapable as a high school student with absolutely no lab experience to come up with a feasible project on my own. However, after a few summers of traditional lab work and this 109 project proposal, I am definitely equipped to come up with a feasible research project now that I have the background in what research is actually like. 

The Research Project

So Cortni and I experienced many problems with our final research project. We came up with a cool idea: Yay lets treat some HIV in pregnant mice and see if it prevents the infection of their babies!!! Only to find out that we can't do that. The humanized mice can have babies but in order to activate the human immune system in the pups, you have to treat them separately after birth aka we can't test the transmission of HIV during pregnancy. Oh boy. So then we kept it simple, treat humanized mice with siRNAs encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles. There its done. And then of course, I find a fairly recent paper that used the same treatment, just in vitro. Well this sucks, our study isn't novel. So here we are, the Saturday before the presentation back to the drawing board, trying to think of new things while trying not to panic.

Thankfully we came up with another idea, our current one, that had not been done before and were able to make progress from there. We met up, finished our powerpoint, practiced it, and turned it in super early, hoping that we'd go first. So thankfully we did end up going first because then we got our presentation and nerves over with early without having to feel intimidated after watching everyone else's great presentations. Presenting this time was much better than presenting journal club. Having a partner in crime gave me some peace of mind. If I wasn't sure of something, my partner was there to help. With Attisa's advice in mind, I think we killed it. 

20.109 Reflection

Alternatively titled: WE'RE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know my enthusiasm at finishing may make it sound like I disliked 20.109, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Being at MIT can be scary. Actually, most of the time, it's scary. I'm scared I'm not going to do well, scared I'm not taking the right classes, scared that I chose the wrong major, scared of the "big, scary course 20 CIM" about which my older friends had warned me. At the beginning of the semester, I was quaking in my boots.
20.109 changed that for me. The opportunity to do such hands on work and so accurately simulate a laboratory environment in class truly solidified my choice in major and some of my hopes for when I'm done with MIT.
I loved 109. The work was difficult, and there was a lot of it, but I felt that all of it contributed to the purpose of developing my skills as a scientific writer and a biological engineer. This class, especially the final research proposal, helped to teach me how to think creatively and how to focus my interests in a productive academic way.
Also, the staff were (was? I'm in Bio E not English) incredible. I don't think I could write seven blog posts without mentioning that fact. The professors unique to each module were so knowledgeable about their subject matter and it was a pleasure to learn from them. As for Leslie and Noreen, I've never had an opportunity to get to know instructors so well since I've been at MIT, and it really shaped my interest in the class.
So, yes, I'm excited that it's over, but it's not because I didn't like the class. Rather, it's because I'm so proud of what I, and the entire 20.109S15 class, have accomplished, and of how much we've grown.
I'll say it again: WE'RE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Disheartening error bars, or, when you realize your data is not significant

Let’s find the subgroup analysis that looks somewhat significant! Hmm this one inhibitor in one situation looks really promising… To think of it, we didn’t cover the ethics or practice of leaving out data and focusing only on the positive results?

There are two conflicting forces at play whenever I begin to make figures: the need to explicitly and accurately convey technical information, and the desire to have visual cohesion and minimalism. This wasn’t a problem for the Mod1 report; although we performed various analyses using existing programs, they already looked visually acceptable and clear.

And then we learned about statistics. The guest lecture by Shannon was quite illuminating; I had been using t-tests and ANOVA p-values without precisely knowing how each value was calculated, and I learned a lot in this lecture. However, now there is no pretending like we don’t know how to calculate 95% significance from our data. The inclusion of these confidence intervals led to many of us experiencing the discomfort of having error bars that are larger than the sample space (Ie: 5 +/- 10).

This was of course an element in my figures that I didn’t find necessarily beautiful, so I tried several ways of pooling the data together such that it would be optimal in both conflict realms.  It was good in some respects, in that it did generate results acceptable of reporting, but it also led to me agonizing over what were the best ways to represent data over multiple variables. In the end, I’ve learned that aesthetics and comprehensive accuracy in figures are not a dichotomy, and you can have both with experience, and of course, more samples.

Significance is a funny thing; it is both definitively objective (p < 0.05) and entirely relative (I’ve learned a significant amount from this class!).  

Should I represent it all on one graph? Or four different sub graphs? Or maybe just compare xrs6 to…

On working with Cortni

So today, I actually planned on going to the goodbye party, eat some good food, be in the company of good people, only to wake up feeling really crappy. Good thing I didn't feel this way yesterday when it really mattered. But anyways, now I'm in bed finishing these blog posts which I should've done throughout the semester but oh well!

So for this post I wanted to talk about working with my great lab partner, Cortni (I wish I could tag her or something like on Facebook). I remember first walking into lab not really knowing people very well. None of my good friends from freshman year or sophomore are course 20 so it was about time I made some new friends. I sat down, started talking to this one girl and we were like "oh lets be partners." Little did we know the bonding experience we'd have over suffering through this class together. On the first day of lab, we didn't realize we were wearing the wrong goggles so we took this selfie:

We look great right. So half the time we were confused and were asking a million questions. But at least neither of us got upset about it. We both had super chill attitudes on everything:

Cortni: "Do you care which cut topology we pick?"
Me: "No."
Cortni: "Good because I signed us up for some random one that was left."

But still got things done correctly:

Everyone else: "Ugh our digest didn't work!"
Us: "Ours has two bands. Is that a problem?"
Everyone else: "No, that means it worked."

We both had similar goals:

Me: "I'm ready to sleep."
Cortni: "I'm already asleep."

Which kept us on the right track:

Me: "Let's yolo this and call it a day."
Cortni: "Yup sounds good to me."

In the end, Cortni and I worked really well together. Though we were almost like your underdog team trying to struggle bus through this class, we did well and got things done. And now I have a new course 20 friend! Yayayayayayayay!

On Team Presentations: a Double-edged sword

On Team Presentations: a Double-edged sword

I didn’t have to use this technique thanks to the seamless slide-making skills 20.109 taught me.

20.109 is the first major communications course in the department, and as such, it gave us the opportunity to develop both written and oral communication skills. At the beginning, I knew the written portion would be the challenging aspect for me, and where I could most improve. However, I also unexpectedly gained a lot of insight from the two presentations we had, the individual Mod 1 Research Article and team Mod 3 Research Proposal.

Comparing the two, there are definitely many differences that make for a more dynamic presentation, as Atissa mentioned. Watching all of our classmates present as teams, it was interesting to note how everyone had progressed from the first presentation. Presenting as a team, however, is intrinsically a double-edged sword, and while it can synthesize the best qualities of the presenters into a skillful, doubly-convincing delivery, it can also be difficult to control and may highlight contrasts that can be distracting or weakening to the overall process. However, in our class, everyone was able to minimize the potential risks and really integrated everyone into a solid presentation.

This team presentation came after my first-ever team presentation in 20.310, so I was very cognizant of the time and the transitions that needed to happen such that everything proceeded according to plan. When I present by myself, I am comfortable quickly improvising or altering my presentation on the go, so I don’t have to rigidly stick to a mental schedule and don’t get tripped up if I forget to say something or if I realize that I should add in a sentence or two I didn't plan earlier based on the flow. However, this is not possible with a team presentation; both people have to know exactly what is going on because there is no way to communicate to each other when it’s live. At the same time, having another person responsible for the presentation creates a system of checks-and-balances; when I work with another person, I want to be ready for every meeting and every mid-point deliverable, which helps a lot with the final product because I treat each progress point seriously. In this way I am much more consistently prepared for the final product than going solo. This benefit balances the potential risk involved in giving up complete control and trusting the other person to also be prepared.

Overall, I really enjoyed the team presentation and felt much more prepared than for our Mod1 presentation. I think it was more dynamic to perform and engaging to listen to. In the future, it’d be great to record the final presentation just for memories!

Thank You to all

Ok, so Tara did a post like this first, but I really want to say Thank You to some influential 20.109 people also.

First off, a big Thank You goes to Joseph for being a great lab partner! I think we made a great team, and helped each other out a lot. I was very nice that by the time it got to preparing the research proposal we were very used to working together, and we divided the workload among each other nicely. Never did I know that one of the first people I met at CPW would become my 20.109 lab partner! Maybe one day the Han-Hann technique for bone repair will become an actual thing. We will see.

Secondly, I would like to thank Noreen and Leslie. I really appreciate all of the office hours you both held on the weekends before large assignments were due. You really tried to be as accessible as possible to us and I think that is very unusual of instructors and I am happy that I could always reach out to both of you for help along the way. I would also like to thank you for staying late after class many days when Joseph and I were still finishing up our work. You both went above and beyond your "call of duty" :) I would especially like to thank Leslie for having many random conversations with me during long incubation periods. I enjoyed getting to know both Noreen and Leslie, and the lovely TA's as the class progressed. <3

Lastly I would like to thank the professors of 109! Unlike other lab classes at MIT I think it is cool that in 109 we do research that has not been done by many people before. You can tell that a lot of planning goes into the modules, and troubleshooting. I enjoyed getting to know each of the professors  and the research that they do in their respective labs. I now know some more Course 20 faculty, which is cool. I would especially like to thank Professor Belcher for helping Joseph and I a lot with the final project! She was easy to schedule meeting times with, and very open to helping us develop our initial idea into something doable.

Also-- classmates you are pretty cool too. I hope you all remain in Course 20, and that we cross paths many times in the future!

Adventures in TEM

Last Tuesday I sprained my left ankle while playing tennis. Lucky me, I got to use crutches for four days, hobbling my way around campus with aching armpits and a really sore right leg. Now, normally, we perform most of our lab work sitting down at our lab bench so the physical status of my left ankle is not a concerning matter.

However, the day after I sprained it, we arrived in lab, eager to perform the long awaited TEM imaging of our gold nanoparticles and Professor Belcher informed us that we would have to hurry over to building 13. For reference, it took me over 20 minutes to get from Maseeh to Hayden Library (and a whole lot of huffing and puffing). There was no way I would be able to hurry over on my crutches.

Thankfully, someone came up with the brilliant idea of me being pushed around on one of the swivel-rolling chairs that we usually sit on for lab work. So I hopped onto one of the chairs (sans armrests, which I guess could have been dangerous, but oh well, we live life on the edge), and my wonderful lab partner Tara proceeded to push me down two floors, through the infinite (to the surprise of more than a couple of students), down another flight of stairs, over some asphalt, and finally to the long awaited TEM room.

The TEM was a hulking, off-white machine controlled by a massive control panel that looked like one of those mission control dashboards from Hollywood space movies. The long, cylindrical series of lenses extended well past the tops of our heads and though the room was a little cramped, our group of six people attempted to all squeeze in.

The person operating the TEM was apparently a solar cell expert who had been preparing them for years and operating this fine (and assuredly expensive) piece of equipment). He, along with Professor Belcher, talked us through some of the procedural steps as they prepped our copper meshes and focused the electron beam.

Finally, with the lights dimmed and our group metaphorically holding a collective breath, the first image appeared on the screen.

It looked like a blob. Like an amorphous, grayish, tentacle-like blob. Apparently it was mineralized phage with titania. But it mostly looked like a blob. Further searching, zooming, and focusing finally revealed a large black circle in the middle of the grayish blob.

We had found gold! The Blue team had used 12nm particles and on the computer screen before us was an image of a gold nanoparticle. The resolution was such that we could see straight lines across the particle, indicating the structural planes of the particle. Elemental analysis of their sample also confirmed the presence of gold, which was exactly what we were hoping for in our quest for the most efficient solar cell.

Finally, it was our turn. It was time for the Red team to kick butt in the looking-at-gold-nanoparticles department. Admittedly, we already knew that our efficiency had been abysmally low (as I have alluded to in previous posts), but we had hopes that it was simply due to poor doctor-blading (also described at length in Tara’s post). We had started with 5nm particles so Professor Belcher warned us that sometimes these could be very difficult to see, let alone find in the great, gray chaos.

There were a couple of false alarms here and there, Professor Belcher a self-proclaimed optimist, but ultimately, nothing was found. There were no visible particles, and certainly none as clear and striking as the gold nanoparticle we had just seen for the Blue team. We crossed our fingers for a good elemental analysis, but that also demonstrated a lack of gold presence. We were comforted by the fact that oftentimes, TEM imaging can take hours to fully explore the entire copper mesh, and that it was possible given more time, we would indeed have found the gold that we were looking for. But since we had only searched for 5-10 minutes, it was not surprising that our small particles were temporarily unfindable (I am optimistically excluding the possibility that they were in fact nonexistent).

Perhaps our solar cell failure was due not only to a nightmare of a doctor-blading experience, but to a lack of gold nanoparticles as well. There are so many questions that would need to be answered for us to determine exactly what went wrong, but we have our hypotheses.

Using the TEM was a really cool experience because we were looking at things only nanometers wide! Having access to all of these amazing pieces of equipment, like the solar simulator as well, has been a great and exciting opportunity, and though ultimately we didn’t find what we were looking for in our sample, we still had the chance to look at the results from all the other groups in the dropbox folder.

I also had a blast being wheeled back to lab on the wheely-chair. What else would lab partners be for, if not to wheel your crippled self through the infinite and back? (Oh yeah, science.)

Thanks Tara, I’m your number one fan. 

20.109 Fostered Teamwork

Beyond the writing and oral practice that 20.109 gave us, I believe we also learned a lot about teambuilding and teamwork through the class.  Throughout the whole class, everyone was paired up with another lab partner to do all the experiments.  This not only saved resources but also allowed everyone to bounce ideas and questions off each other.  Because we were allowed to leave class when we were done with our experiment, there was an incentive for everyone to work efficiently.  However more often than not, it seemed like Hannah and I were always the last ones or close to the last ones to leave…but looking back, it wasn’t as bad as being the last person to finish by yourself. 

I also believe that the mod3 mini-report was an assignment that fostered teamwork.  For the most part, the assignment was completed in class so we didn’t have the luxury of taking all the time we needed.  As such, Hannah and I split up certain sections of the mod3 report.  If we didn’t have two people working on the report, I don’t know if I would have been able to finish the report in time given the time constraint.

Lastly, I think that the final research proposal was the best teambuilding exercise.  The scope of the assignment was so grand that it would have been very difficult to have done by yourself.  With an assignment such as this, it was very important to be able to bounce ideas off of each other.  Hannah and I were able to split up the jobs well…Hannah worked on certain sections while I worked on others.  She also met with certain experts on certain aspects of the mechanical testing such as her pI, while I met with experts on the M13 phage such as Professor Belcher and Po-Yen, a graduate student in the Belcher Lab.  Practicing late at 2AM as also not as bad as having to practice at 2AM by yourself.  I think that the teamwork aspect of this assignment played a large part in making this assignment fun and enjoyable.

20.109 has been fun and frustrating at the same time, but I’m glad to have been able to work in a team throughout 20.109.  I’m glad Hannah and I were lab partners, because I think we made up a good team.

-Joseph Han