Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 7.346 Virus-Host Interactions in Infectious Diseases as it was taught by Dr. Sumana Sanyal and Dr. Joseph Ashour in Spring 2013.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. In these pass/fail seminars, students draw upon primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive, small-group setting. This particular seminar focuses on virus-host interactions in infectious diseases.

Course Outcomes

This course is designed to encourage critical thinking skills in future scientists. Students learn how to read research articles and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the experiments presented.

Student Information


8 students

Breakdown by Year

A mix of undergraduate juniors and seniors.

Breakdown by Major

3/4 biology majors, 1/4 engineering majors.

Typical Student Background

Students have typically taken introductory level courses in biology and chemistry.

Ideal Class Size

This class works best with fewer than ten students. Students must feel comfortable speaking in class, and that’s easier for the students in a smaller group.

Curriculum Information

Requirements Satisfied



Seminars are offered each semester and are topics based. This particular topic is not offered every semester.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 6 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Seminar Meeting

The first ten minutes of class were spent on the students sharing their thoughts on the two research articles assigned as reading for the week. Were the papers interesting? Were they difficult to read? How strong were the experimental designs and conclusions?

The remainder of the time was spent discussing the papers in detail, one at a time. One student would give an overall summary of the article. Each figure would then be presented by a student, who would describe the methodology used, the findings, and the strengths and weaknesses of the conclusions.

Open discussion was encouraged amongst the students. The instructors intentionally remained outside the discussions. Occasionally if a major point of the paper was missed or misunderstood, or glaring weaknesses or strengths were not picked up by the students, the instructors asked open-ended questions to guide students toward these points.

Out of Class

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

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