Short Weekly Assignments
Each week students will submit two questions—one for each assigned reading—which will be used to facilitate discussions in class. The questions may pertain to the methods, experimental design, data, or interpretation of the results. The questions should be submitted by email to the instructors no later than 3 pm the day prior to the class.
Written Assignment (Due Week 9)
Each student will be required to submit a 3–4 page written assignment (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, 1 inch margins). Students will choose a recent news article from a popular newspaper, magazine, or news website (e.g., the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, or cnn.com) about scientific work in the field of DNA damage DNA repair, or diseases associated with unrepaired DNA damage, and then research the primary literature from which the article originated. Students will summarize the background and major findings of the study and describe why the work is relevant to or how it will contribute to advancing the DNA damage and repair field or the treatment / prevention of disease. Students will critically evaluate the experimental design used in the study and highlight the key experiment as well as key controls that allowed the authors to draw their conclusions. Students also should propose an interesting follow-up experiment, including controls that would test the authors’ conclusions. Finally, students should discuss whether the conclusions were justified based on the results and whether the popular news coverage accurately reflected the science in the primary publication upon which it was based; if not the students should discuss any misinterpretations of the data. Students are encouraged to meet with the instructors to discuss their choice of paper and should finalize their decision by Week 6.
Oral Presentations (Due Week 13)
Students will choose a recent paper of their choice from the primary research literature relevant to DNA damage, DNA repair, and disease. Students should discuss their choices with the instructors as early in the semester as possible, and should decide on a paper by Week 10. Students will present the major findings to the class in a 15-minute talk. As part of the presentation, students are expected to provide the background of the work, and explain why it is important. They should identify the key experiment and the controls that were key to that experiment. Students should evaluate the quality of the experimental design and propose an experiment with appropriate controls that would extend the work or clarify a point that was not satisfactorily addressed in the publication. Students should also be prepared to field questions and facilitate discussion about the work during their presentations.