How this biology lab class went virtual during the pandemic | MIT News

Every single January, MIT hosts a four-week term known as Unbiased Pursuits Period of time (IAP). This year, however, was diverse: All IAP pursuits were being held online due to Covid-19 constraints. Like several other IAP instructors, the Section of Biology’s director of outreach, Mandana Sassafar, was facing a problem. How could she transfer a quickly-paced, arms-on lab course to the digital realm?

Sassanfar has been teaching class 7.102 (Introduction to Molecular Biology Procedures) for around a decade. The course was at first designed to familiarize initially-calendar year undergraduates with lab tools, troubleshooting, and essential procedures in molecular biology in planning for MIT’s Undergraduate Study Possibilities Application (UROP). She felt this objective was now far more important than ever, offered that also several pupils experienced previously shed precious odds to do the job in labs thanks to the pandemic.

After months of thought, she arrived up with a alternative: build a remote model of the course called 7.S391 (Exclusive Subject matter in Biology) applying video clips. She filmed extra than 15 graduate students and postdocs on her Apple iphone, keeping at the very least 6 feet of distance as the trainees wore masks and shown several lab procedures.

The 7.S391 college students then viewed the video clips, explained just about every experiment, in comparison procedures, and devised protocols based on their observations. Whilst they did not have lab gear in their homes, observing researchers in action is the to start with move towards studying-by-executing, in accordance to Sassanfar.

“Because so many first-a long time are eager to start off UROPs, this appeared like the most effective way to put together them,” Sassanfar claimed. “They had been exposed to study and lab equipment on a day by day basis, and viewing experiments aided them obtain awareness and confidence.”

The class was capped at 24 college students, who fulfilled for two-and-a-50 % several hours each individual day for 12 times. Many thanks to Sassanfar’s video clips, the pupils uncovered to expand microbes set up polymerase chain response (PCR) tests style primers to assemble recombinant plasmids do tissue lifestyle and execute gel electrophoresis, western blots, and affinity chromatography. They also practiced decoding the success.

For the duration of the ultimate days of the course, MIT lab groups hoping to recruit UROPs gave short presentations about their exploration. In whole, 10 labs from the departments of Biology, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Biological Engineering participated.

A person graduate scholar presenter, Kristina Lopez ’18, experienced completed her undergraduate degree at MIT prior to starting her PhD in the Knouse lab. She encouraged undergraduate pupils to locate a lab they like and do the job there until eventually they graduate. “I joined a lab my freshman yr and stayed there all four several years,” she mentioned. “It authorized me to definitely delve into the project and make crucial contributions.”    

Very first-12 months Alesandra (Alysse) Pusey says the class introduced her to an array of lab techniques for investigating biological concerns. “I feel more prepared and eager to consider on a UROP,” she adds. “Most digital classes lack organic social interactions, but the implementation of breakout rooms and split time in this course permitted me to bond with my classmates, each of whom share an desire in biology with me.” 

Her classmate Antonella Rebolledo-Ledesma also appreciated the experience. “I was stunned by how significantly I could understand about lab perform in a virtual setting,” she says. “I would highly recommend this training course to anyone who is contemplating about getting it up coming calendar year — though ideally it will be in-person!”

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