Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Important details about use of the 20.109 Class Blog -- Spring 2015

Some important details about using the 20.109 Class Blog:
This blog is visible by all current and former (F14) members of the 20.109 community (teachers & students) so your comments should be as respectful and thoughtful as any you'd make in person. You can be controversial but you should not be rude or insulting. Your digital comments will also persist long past the time you're in this class so please don't make any comments that could be misconstrued or misinterpreted in the future.

Things you can’t do

  • Publish MIT's logo since that might be construed as MIT endorsement of your views
  • Publish photographs with people’s names tagged
  • Publish rude or malicious comments/statements 
  • Plagiarize a blog post from a past semester -- be creative and use your own experiences!
Thank you for adding to the community by documenting your experiences in this class. Happy bioengineering!

Overview of 20.109 Class Blog Assignment

Overview -- Spring 2015

Two points of your final grade are determined by your blog posts. Each satisfactory post will be worth 0.5 points. After that, each additional post will count as an extra credit homework (with a maximum of three). That is, 0.5 points will be added to the numerator but not the denominator of your homework grade. With a typical homework denominator of 60-65 points, you could increase your homework score by about a quarter of a letter grade if you do all three extra credit assignments.

If a post seems extremely "phoned in," half credit will be given (0.25 points). An extra credit assignment may be used to replace this score. However, no homework bonus will be given in addition, and the maximum of three such assignments still holds.

Due dates and topics

There are no specified due dates for these reflective blog posts. However, there is a date stamp on each one, and you must complete one per module and a summary post at the end of class. The end of a module is the day after you turn in your final report. You will receive feedback on your blog posts from your instructors (and anyone else in the class that chooses to comment on the blog).

Below are some suggested topics with prompts to get you thinking. You do not need to address these questions specifically, but your own creative posts should match the depth of these prompting questions. 

A fun (and useful) last-post-of-the-semester is a summary post where you reflect on the first three that you have written.

Possible blog topics

The hardest part of scientific writing for me is…

Best completed after your Mod1 writing assignment
You’ve just completed your first major science communication assignments in 20.109. The culminating writing assignments for Module 1 contained the major building blocks of a technical journal article: an abstract and the meat of the paper – the data and analysis. Although scientific writers usually end up at a similar endpoint, most people get there by following slightly different paths. For example, I find it particularly useful to write my Methods section first (when I'm writing a full paper), as it refreshes my memory and reminds me how exciting it was do the work. Next, I take this ‘writers high’ to the data section, which I find the most difficult to write. What was the hardest element for you to complete within the major assignments of Module 1? How might you approach this part differently while writing your full research report for Module 2?

Conquering stage fright.

Best completed after your journal club presentation
The old adage of “picturing your audience naked” to distract you from your nerves before public speaking engagements is really not very good advice. There are several less distracting and more practical ways to calm yourself before speaking. The first, and perhaps easiest, is a deep breath and a smile. Often, the journal club assignment in 20.109 is the first time students have formally presented research performed by someone else. What did you find to be the most surprising part of preparing and delivering your presentation? Were there elements that you feared, but found them to be easier than you thought or vice versa? How did you calm your nerves (if you felt any) before beginning your presentation?

This time around, things were easier. Or perhaps not?

Best completed after preparing Module 2 paper draft
For many 20.109 students, the research article completed for module 2 is the first journal-like manuscript that they have ever prepared. Your 20.109 teaching staff try very hard to provide helpful and constructive feedback through homework assignments, presentations by the WRAP faculty, and one-on-one consultation. Additionally, BE has recently opened the BE Communications Lab to help students optimize their scientific writing process. While fresh in your mind, please reflect on what resources you utilized during the preparation of your paper and which you found to be the most and least helpful --- why (please provide specifics)?

A module of a different color is still biological engineering.

Best completed during Module 3
Module 3 always makes me think of the old Seasame Street song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FClGhto1vIg) “One of these things is not like the other.” In Module 1 and Module 2 we used pretty advanced molecular biology and protein engineering techniques to measure cell-level behaviors by a fluorescent readout. While we are most definitely still exploiting the protein structure and properties of phage virus in Module 3, it just feels different. But, all of the applications that we’ve explored in 20.109 fall under the guise of Biological Engineering. When you describe Biological Engineering to your friends and families, what examples do you use? What does the term ‘Biological Engineering’ mean to you?
Other possibilities: (All due by 11am, 5/14/15)
  1. Write an executive summary of one paper that you’ve read this semester that has not already been discussed by the class as a whole. Include the major conclusions and any critical feedback you would give the authors. Why did you think this paper was interesting and important – or why not?
  2. Evaluate yourself as a science communicator – where did you start the semester? What area(s) have you most improved on? What remains a challenge and what are your plans to improve in that area? Are there resources that MIT (or your 20.109 teaching staff!) could make available to you?
  3. Discuss a meeting that you had with your BE Writing Fellow. What did you find most useful? Was there anything that you found to be surprising? Confusing? Motivating? Funny?
  4. Provide one idea for a future module that could be developed for 20.109. What would the main goals of the module be? What techniques would be learned? How would you suggest communicating the experimental (or modeling!) results of your module (i.e. oral report, written report, mix)? Would you want to help develop it during a summer UROP or over IAP?