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

Every January, MIT hosts a 4-week phrase acknowledged as Impartial Functions Period (IAP). This calendar year, while, was distinct: All IAP routines ended up held on the web thanks to Covid-19 constraints. Like many other IAP instructors, the Office of Biology’s director of outreach, Mandana Sassafar, was experiencing a problem. How could she transfer a speedy-paced, arms-on lab course to the digital realm?

Sassanfar has been instructing class 7.102 (Introduction to Molecular Biology Techniques) for about a ten years. The class was at first developed to familiarize initially-yr undergraduates with lab machines, troubleshooting, and basic procedures in molecular biology in planning for MIT’s Undergraduate Study Prospects System (UROP). She felt this aim was now far more vital than ever, given that far too numerous learners experienced presently lost important odds to function in labs thanks to the pandemic.

Following weeks of thing to consider, she came up with a answer: produce a distant variation of the class called 7.S391 (Unique Subject in Biology) employing online video clips. She filmed additional than 15 graduate pupils and postdocs on her Iphone, preserving at least 6 toes of distance as the trainees wore masks and demonstrated numerous lab tactics.

The 7.S391 pupils then viewed the video clips, described just about every experiment, as opposed techniques, and devised protocols primarily based on their observations. Whilst they did not have lab gear in their homes, observing researchers in motion is the first move towards mastering-by-performing, according to Sassanfar.

“Because so many first-a long time are keen to get started UROPs, this appeared like the ideal way to prepare them,” Sassanfar stated. “They ended up uncovered to study and lab resources on a day by day basis, and observing experiments aided them obtain awareness and self-confidence.”

The course was capped at 24 college students, who achieved for two-and-a-fifty percent hrs each individual working day for 12 days. Thanks to Sassanfar’s videos, the pupils figured out to mature microbes established up polymerase chain response (PCR) exams layout primers to construct recombinant plasmids do tissue tradition and accomplish gel electrophoresis, western blots, and affinity chromatography. They also practiced decoding the final results.

During the last times of the class, MIT lab groups hoping to recruit UROPs gave shorter shows about their analysis. In complete, 10 labs from the departments of Biology, Mind and Cognitive Sciences, and Biological Engineering participated.

A person graduate college student presenter, Kristina Lopez ’18, experienced accomplished her undergraduate diploma at MIT ahead of beginning her PhD in the Knouse lab. She suggested undergraduate learners to uncover a lab they like and get the job done there right until they graduate. “I joined a lab my freshman yr and stayed there all four yrs,” she explained. “It authorized me to genuinely delve into the venture and make essential contributions.”    

Very first-yr Alesandra (Alysse) Pusey says the class launched her to an array of lab procedures for investigating organic inquiries. “I experience more geared up and eager to just take on a UROP,” she provides. “Most virtual classes lack organic social interactions, but the implementation of breakout rooms and crack time in this course allowed me to bond with my classmates, every of whom share an curiosity in biology with me.” 

Her classmate Antonella Rebolledo-Ledesma also loved the practical experience. “I was shocked by how much I could master about lab perform in a digital placing,” she states. “I would highly propose this system to any person who is wondering about using it subsequent yr — whilst ideally it will be in-human being!”