7.15 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Experimental Molecular Genetics


Data Analysis and Interpretation, Technical Skill, Quality of Effort, and Lab Notebook

The greatest part of your final grade will be based on how you perform in the laboratory. You need to demonstrate a basic level of competence and invest genuine effort towards research progress. We do not expect that all your experiments will be successful, but we do expect that you will have carried them out in a rigorous, well-controlled, and well-documented manner, and have made an effort to understand why an experiment did not work. Not all students enter this course with the same level of laboratory research experience. The teaching staff recognizes this and encourages you to take advantage of this course to improve your skills and learn new ones. Your efforts to extend your knowledge beyond the immediate need of the experiment will be reflected favorably in the grade for this area.

You must keep a physical lab notebook. It is an important tool and key to good experimental practice. The notebook should be a complete record of all the experiments as they were actually performed. Experimental results, tables, images, etc. should be included in your notebook for a permanent record. A good notebook will enable someone to reconstruct, long after the fact, exactly what was done and why. In addition to the physical lab book, it is recommended that you also keep all or part of the experimental information digitally. Digital notebook is a growing trend in experimental research, and is beneficial for many obvious reasons, such as searching, replicating repetitive procedures, and data sharing. Software, such as Microsoft Word or OneNote, can be used. Tips about maintaining a complete and useful digital notebook in addition to the physical notebook will be given.

Oral Presentations and Participation

We will meet weekly to discuss research results (group meetings) or primary literature (journal club), as well as to have each student present a final research talk. Guidelines on what is expected for each of these presentations will be provided in the course.

Journal Club

Starting from week 3 (session 11), we will dedicate the first hour of one afternoon each week to a journal club. Each student will lead two journal clubs for a total of 8 journal clubs for the semester. For each journal club, there will be one main paper, which is to be discussed in detail, along with one or two additional papers, which contain background studies or extended research related to the main paper. The list of papers can be found in the Readings section.

Serving as the discussion leader of a journal club, you’re expected to prepare a powerpoint presentation to walk your audience through the paper.

Written Assignments

Written communication has been the mode of disseminating scientific achievements and new knowledge for centuries. Improving your skills in scientific writing is, therefore, a critical component of this course. The technical writing instructor will be the primary instructor for the writing / communications section of the course, although other members of the teaching staff will read your drafts and final assignments and provide comments and feedback. Throughout the semester Dr. Pepper will lead lectures / workshops and discussions about scientific writing. You will submit a number of writing assignments. The purpose of such arrangement is to work on various parts of a typical scientific paper at different time points during the semester, i.e. Introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion. These parts then can be integrated into a complete paper on your particular research project towards the end of the semester. Please note that written assignments must be turned in on time. Late assignments will not be graded and you will receive a 0 for a missed assignment. However, we will read late assignments if you would like to have our feedback.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments