7.15 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Experimental Molecular Genetics


Course Meeting Times

Lectures & Labs: 5 sessions / week, 4 hours / session


The course assumes no prior research background, but students should have taken 7.02 Experimental Biology & Communication or its equivalent and be comfortable with the principles and concepts covered in 7.03 Genetics.

Course Description

This project-based laboratory course provides students with in-depth experience in experimental molecular genetics, using modern methods of molecular biology and genetics to conduct original research. The course is geared towards students (including sophomores) who have a strong interest in a future career in biomedical research. This semester will focus on chemical genetics using Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a model system. Students will gain experience in research rationale and methods, as well as training in the planning, execution, and communication of experimental biology. Frontier techniques currently widely used in modern biology, such as omics-type experiments and bioinformatics, will be integrated into the research projects carried out by the students during this semester. The course may serve as a bridge for students who have taken 7.02 Experimental Biology & Communication but plan on pursuing UROP opportunities. In addition, we feel that students who are currently engaged in UROP experiences may also benefit strongly from the research instruction in this course.


The course meets five times a week, with each meeting lasting four hours. A lecture, discussion, or group meeting with the instructional staff and faculty will be held for the first hour of class, while experimental work will be conducted primarily for the remaining three hours of class. The course has four principal components:

  • Experimental laboratory work
  • Lectures and discussions
  • Student presentations of research results and primary literature
  • Written assignments

Outside of classroom and laboratory time, students are expected to work on readings, written assignments, and oral presentations.

Written and Oral Communications Skills

This is a CI-M (Communication Intensive in the Major) course, and thus teaches students how to write and communicate within the field of biology. An important component of this course is the development of effective communication skills. You will describe your experiments and discuss your results both orally and in your notebook. During the term, you will be responsible for:

  • Discussing your experimental data in group lab meetings,
  • Presenting a journal article for discussion,
  • Presenting a final talk about your research during the semester, and
  • Completing writing assignments based principally on the assigned reading materials.

The technical writing instructor will help guide you in the preparation and presentation of your written assignments and seminars, although all members of the instructional staff will be available to provide advice and critiques.


You will be graded based on your performance in the laboratory and in the classroom. Specifically, the important points are how you approach, design and implement the experiments, the effort you put into performing quality work, and how well you communicate your results. Your grade will not be affected by the outcome of your experiment. Participation in meetings and discussions, including group meetings, journal clubs, and oral presentations is also expected and will contribute to your final evaluation.

Data analysis and interpretation, effort, skill and lab notebook 50%
Journal club presentation 10%
Final research presentation 10%
Group meeting presentations and participation 10%
Written assignments 20%

Mid-term Evaluations

At midterm, you will receive a written and / or oral evaluation of your progress to date that assesses your strengths and weaknesses in the course, and assigns a grade for your work thus far. This evaluation will identify aspects of experimental, technical, or communication skills that need attention and improvement. It will incorporate comments from all the members of the teaching staff, and should enable you to direct your attention to specific points as the course moves into the second part of the semester.

Policy on Collaboration

You are encouraged to collaborate with classmates in designing experiments, discussing data, and preparing for journal club and seminars. Although you and your classmates may have identical results, the presentation of results must be your own. This applies to text, figures, graphs, tables, etc. In most cases the interpretations of results will be the same; however, each of you must express these ideas in your own words.

Course Info

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