Thursday, May 14, 2015

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!

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