Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Coming into 20.109, I had some lab experience. Okay..more like a teeny bit- I'd spent the last two months of my freshman spring UROPing at the Broad Institute, performing bacterial transformations, running gels, and purifying proteins. It was exciting to apply the knowledge I'd learned in 7.013 to physical work at the lab bench, and needless to say, I figured I'd be pretty comfortable with the lab work we'd do in Module 1. Sure, I was right about that..but the writing assignments were a whole 'nother can of worms.
Due every time we met for lab, the smaller assignments were easy enough to handle, but then came the Mod 1 protein engineering summary. Of course, I'd had it penned into my Google calendar since the beginning of the semester (wow, it's already been two months since IAP ended ahhh), but never really gave it much thought until the "protein eng due at 5pm" alert came up on my phone one week in advance. It was go time. And with that, some lessons learned along the way:

Life tip #1: The easiest way to hold yourself accountable for something is to plan for it with someone else.
My lab partner and I agreed that we'd meet in office hours on a Sunday to start the draft of our summary. This way, even with my DanceTroupe showings and LTI sessions scheduled for the day and a week packed with exams and deadlines for other classes, I'd definitely make time to work on the summary, preferably not on the before it was due. (Let it be known that the fig and olive oat crisps from Stop&Shop are a serious motivational game-changer)

Life tip #2: Google Drive/the Microsoft Office Suite is your best friend.
Sometime in the beginning of March, I discovered how much I'd been missing out by not using Google Slides or Microsoft Powerpoint to do some of my homework assignments.
It is SO much easier to build a schematic from scratch in Google Slides when you have the right tools. Want tiny, bezeled arrows with 2pt outlines and 1pt shadows pointing to the calcium binding loop on your inverse pericam protein? Easy. Need a picture of a culture dish, but would rather create your own rather than use a Google Image photo with an ugly watermark in the back? Done. Never shall I go back to using the only slightly shady outdated "OpenOffice" desktop app ever again (it was supposed to be the Mac-equivalent of MS Word 6 years ago, okay? My laptop is old..)

Life tip #3: Teamwork makes the dream work!
Have you ever heard the WonderPets theme song that the animals sing right before they embark on a mission? We're not too big and we're not too tough, but when we work togetherrrrrrr we've got the right stuff! That's sorta how it's like in real life--talking animals aside. With our busy schedules and break times that don't coincide, Google Slides allowed my partner and I to split the work evenly and each do our part in a timely manner. Being able to track real-time changes and, when the chatroom wasn't working, communicate with each other through text boxes inserted on the page where "Anonymous Beaver aka Lab Partner" is currently on, made the workflow that much smoother.
Having another pair of eyes to look over your work is great-- especially when you've been working on the same "Background & Motivations" slide for so long that you start to second-guess the placement of your bullets and just exactly where that last text box is aligned.

In the end, creating the protein engineering summary was a laborious process, but seeing the final product (and the grade we got to go with it) made it worth the long hours. We could all use a gold star once in a while. I suppose 27 comments, rather than 42, is the 20.109 equivalent :)

Research is Not Just Butchered Mice Hearts

One 20.109 module later, I come away with a mixture of feelings about wetlab.

Before college, I had only had one experience with biology labs outside the high school classroom, and it was mediocre at best. I spent a month of my summer occasionally going to a local research lab to watch the graduate students conduct their research. They were extremely patient and kind with me, but still there were many moments where I just stood off to one side in silence, simply because there wasn't anything engaging to do at the time. The day could drag on and on. On one of the more eventful days, I got to work with a mouse heart that they were studying. I attempted to trim the fat from around the tiny heart under the microscope.

"I think I got it pretty clean. How’d I do?"
"Um, I think you cut off one of the atria."

So things were slow, and when they weren't slow, they were a little rough. I saw biological research as tedious and time-consuming, and decided it wasn't for me.

Skip forward to 20.109, my first structured introduction to biological engineering. This module allowed me to experience the lab knowing the goal of each experiment, and it made me appreciate that when you (kind of) know what you're doing, the experience is refreshingly different. I've really enjoyed learning and doing different lab techniques that I had previously heard about in textbooks. I remember certain moments throughout the module when I would just marvel over the fact that the complicated assemblage of plastic and metal tools sitting in front of me was created for the sole purpose of carrying out biological experiments. 

It seems Wolverine invaded biology.

I would marvel over the fact that I was doing the things I had previously associated with "biology in college". Like, fancy college things. But while I was really excited, life would still distract from these exciting projects.

Challenge Accepted 2 - Due Tomorrow? Do tomorrow.

Overall, I definitely learned a lot about basic lab techniques and the experimental process during this module. I still don't think research is something I would do over an extended period of time, but I definitely have a better idea of what it entails, and I no longer associate it with just tedium and silence and chopped up mice hearts.

How It All Started...

How It All Started

I joined the Biomolecular Materials Group back in sophomore year,
I was a physics and math major looking for something interesting to do here,
A mentor directed me to Prof. Angela Belcher, and oh dear,

I was just fascinated by all that can be done with bio gear,
Science and engineering that you'd generally hear by ear,
Started to become a reality and began to be clear,
However, such techniques were beyond my atmosphere,
It was difficult at first, but I decided that there was no fear,
To explore, practice makes perfect, one day it'll adhere,
And since then, I found myself stuck in this wonderful sphere.

So, I started biological-chemical engineering along my physics degree,
But 7.02 was not nearly as interesting as 20.109 you see,
My research in course three got closer to twenty!
The interest in one subset of bioengineering became many,
And learning the fundamentals had to be the key,

I approached Prof. Belcher and asked her about 20.109,
She recommended it highly and thought it would be great to combine,
To put my skills physics and chemical engineerings in line,
With the research that was always a thrill down my spine,

I petitioned for the substitution, and bam!
Within a few days I was working on inverse pericam,
A few weeks later I was speaking about it on cam,

Even though module one has sadly departed,
What I have learned so far is already uncharted,
More to come, and I am approaching module two whole-hearted,
But then again, this is just the beginning: the story of how it all started.

- Saleem A. Aldajani

P.S. I was planning to rap this with my hologram self, but time has been limited. Just wait for the next blog post, and if you are too impatient, below is a link to my hologram rapping about special relativity for my final project in 8.20! (Introduction To Special Relativity)

The Climb

I’ve been working as a simulation biologist for over year now, so I’ve gotten pretty used to instant (or nearly instant, depending on how sloppy my coding is) gratification. A few hundred lines of Python, a handful of bug fixes, and a few minutes of code-running on my speedy work computer, and

I’ve simulated 10,000 tumors treated with 10,000 different cancer drugs for 100 days each. Here they are, all plotted on this trippy heatmap.

Pretty sweet, huh? Were I a wet-lab oncologist performing the same experiment, I could grow and treat, say, twenty rat tumors at a time. That’s twenty tumors for every 100 days. So… The tumor growth and treatment alone would take 50,000 days, which is a mere 137 years. And presumably it would take me a second or two to engineer those 10,000 drugs with very specific uptake and degradation parameters.
But hey, you know, sometimes you want to stop and smell the Petri dishes. I think wet-lab biology is about the delayed gratification—as Miley Cyrus would say, it’s about “the climb.”

Well, figuratively.

Wet-lab work has its advantages. I don’t have to make up any numbers, the road to publication is less treacherous, the intellectual leaps are smaller, and things are more certain in general. 

And often the math is much less onerous.

So here I am in 20.109, smelling the Petri dishes.

Well, not so much. We started out in silico, designing a pRSET plasmid we could cleave up to insert the gene for our protein of interest, a calcium sensor. We’d embarked on our quest to build a better calcium sensor—or at least a more sensitive one.

Not even on day two could I abandon my computer: next was designing primers for site-driected mutagenesis. I guess wet-lab work isn’t all dish-sniffing, after all.

But then it began: Oh, the pipetting! The gel electrophoresis! The algebra, the inscrutable buffer acronyms, the aspirator backwash, the gloves, the lab coats!

… And the mistakes. The “Oh, we need four milliliters of solution mix? We made four microliters…” The ruptured growth media, the indecipherable gel runs, and the poorly-balanced centrifuge nearly hopping off the table.

And so it continued, on and on for another three weeks of protein expression in real live E.coli (!),  mini-preps, protein purification, pipetting, and calcium titration.

Along the way, we got a few bits of data about how our designer protein was doing. We confirmed uptake of IPC into the pRSET plasmid. We sequenced our mutant plasmid—our mutagenesis worked! Our E.coli took up the plasmid, and the wild-type IPC sensor worked beautifully.

Everything was going great, and the suspense was really killing me.  Would our new IPC out-sense the original? Would it be better suited for the cytosolic environment?  Could it cure cancer?

And thus our great hopes hinged upon the outcome of the Ca2+ titration assay. The reader whizzed, buzzing past each well in the plate, recording fluorescence measurements. We rushed back to our laptops and entered our data, plotting the graphs that would determine our protein’s fate!

And, well, we got a line that was pretty darn flat. Our protein was totally indifferent to the presence of calcium. Remarkably insensitive—and entirely useless, to be frank.

And so I learned: bench biology isn’t about the delayed gratification—it’s about the patience.

Things I've Learned Along the Way

Time was ticking by so quickly as my lab partner and I furiously typed away on our shared Google Slides document. We struggled to submit the Protein Engineering Summary in on time. The closer the deadline approached, the more problems we seemed to encounter along the way. We somehow managed to dodge every bullet, pull everything together and finally turn it in. After this close encounter, I realized that there were a few things that had to be improved.  

1. Don't leave everything to the very last minute.

It seems obvious right? As students, there is one disease which most of us have suffered from at some point in our academic lives. Early signs include avoiding any work at all costs or mindlessly wasting time on Facebook. Symptoms include lack of sleep, stress, and getting into panic mode at 3 AM.  Name of disease:

Procrastination is the little green monster that I can always see coming from a mile away but never do anything to avoid. For the Protein Engineering Summary, I procrastinated way too much. My partner and I discussed what we would write about, how we would configure each slide, and ensuring that all the information would get onto the report without actually starting anything until the very end. This was a huge mistake because, of course, it took way longer than we thought it would. 

2. Don't be overconfident. 

When it comes to scientific writing, I would like to think I have a lot of practice from writing grant proposals, abstracts, and full scientific reports. However, I greatly underestimated the amount of work that went into the Protein Engineering Summary. My lab partner and I both have extensive laboratory experience and often breeze through lab with minimal pitfalls. IN the lab, we are essentially a match made in heaven - we work efficiently and smoothly together and also get along great!

Thus, we felt that we could get into the assignment fairly easily. However, because of the unique structure of the report (for example, writing in bullets instead of sentences) there was a lot of additional formatting and laying out text and figures that we found we spent more time with formatting and figuring out how things could fit on the slides than actually thinking about making the report flow with the desirable "hourglass" configuration. 

3. Take advantage of office hours. 

This one kind of follows the previous two concepts. Because we left everything to the end and felt so overconfident with the report, we basically didn't have time to go to office hours. However, for the revision we both took advantage of office hours and I realize just how amazing it was! It was extremely helpful to have someone there to ask questions to in real time - plus there was food! Office hours are something I would like to start going to regularly, simply because it's always a good idea to get some feedback before turning in an assignment and any last minute questions can be addressed. 


All in all, the Protein Engineering Summary could have been much improved had I not left everything to the last minute, been too overconfident, and gone to office hours. These valuable lessons not only apply to 20.109 (though I will definitely be incorporating them into my future assignments), but also to life and work in general. Get things done early, don't underestimate the difficulty of situations (take them for face value and prepare instead), and don't be afraid to ask for help. 

The Unseen Merits of Meticulousness (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Extra Lab Time)

"Let's hurry up man, I'm trying to go home."
Around the fourth straight day saying that, I realized I didn't really mean it.

You see, 20.109 is a unique instructional lab experience. We learn the basics of laboratory work, right down to the details. Our class of about 10 students is split into groups of two for the entire semester. That means you better hope you work well with your lab partner because you’re stuck with him or her for good, no take-backs.
Or these guys, whatever their names were.

We got things done and we worked extremely well together. And yet, we were also the slowest group.

I remember many days where the Part 3 of our protocol happened at the same time as most other groups’ Part 4. There were a few days where we were the last group to be done. Even after old friend, named "5:20pm hunger" would pay a visit, and my ex-SO "distracted exhaustion" reared its all-too-familiar and ugly head, we would still be there tooling around with pipet tips and eppendorf tubes.

At first, it bothered me. After all, I’m a guy with things to do. I had a schedule to maintain. But I picked up a two things about 20.109 that changed my perspective, and the true rewards associated with embracing “lab overtime."

Ice cream sundae not included!

Primarily, all laboratory experiments require large blocks of time. That's just the way it works and we were blessed that we only needed to do a piece of the whole effort during our limited class time. I found this out by mentally piecing together all the behind-the-scenes tasks performed by the 20.109 teaching staff. Buffers need to be made. Cells need to be grown and suspended. If you wanted to do every single incubation step, electrophoresis, and solution preparation into 8 hours a week, you would need time-stopping magic. Which is beyond the scope of this course.    

Secondly, I came to realize that all of our slowness was really from our attention to detail. Our experimental procedures were simply deliberate. My lab partner asked every question he could about the underlying rationale behind each step. We double checked our solution mixtures. Triple checked our calculations. I know now that if it were purely up to me, I would have made many more rookie mistakes just by trying to save time. And nothing wastes more time than redoing a botched trial. Asking questions and taking our time with steps helped me avoid mistakes in experimental practice and in communication. 

As a result of our judicious meticulousness, we prepared contamination-free results with some of the tightest linear fits absolutely ever. What more could you ask for?

I took home the following pro-tips from Module 1 of 20.109.
  1. Revise. 
  2. Edit.
  3. Ask around.
  4. Maybe practice your presentations (like, once can’t hurt).  
      and of course,
  1. Stick a while longer, because “staying late” is just a state of mind.

- Jordan S

Tales of a Bad Mother

 You would think that after spending over a month creating and working with your own IPC mutant, you would know it really well. Know every detail about it – which calcium binding loop was a little off, if it was feeling a little negative sometimes, it’s plans for M1D6 – everything. Even though I felt I knew IPC mutant D23N really well, it’s ins and outs, affinity target columns very quickly caused me and my lab partner to question which IPC was really ours. When performing our purification, we put our labels on the column instead of the elution tubes, so when we disposed of our columns, the elution tubes were identical. Our samples were pure, we just didn’t know which tube held the wildtype (WT) IPC and which tube held our mutant IPC D23N. It kind of felt like being a mom who took a different baby home from the hospital.

We made a 50/50 chance guess as to which tube was which and continued as normal and figured we would find out when we got the fluorescence assay data back. I managed to put this ordeal out of my mind until we finally graphed our data. Thankfully, we were comparing our data to another groups wildtype and mutant and discovered that our wildtype was closer to their mutant and our mutant was closer to their wildtype. This was when the suspicion kicked in that we had ended up on the wrong end of our 50/50 chance. Ultimately, we took to the literature. Lucky for us, the Kd and n were listed for the WT IPC, and we concluded that one of our samples was far closer to those values. This was also the sample that matched more closely with the other team’s wildtype data, so we were pretty certain we had switched the labels at this point. It just goes to show, that even when things are going horribly wrong – like picked up the wrong kid from the hospital wrong – science is always better when supported by literature and teamwork.

The hardest part of science writing for me is... *drum roll*... science writing

I always loved writing, well, creative writing, not essays and such, because I love telling stories, true or fabricated. I could talk or write for millennia. Some essays can be daunting, but they usually fall into place when I plan them out well. But on the other end of the writing spectrum, lies our very best friend, science writing.

I really enjoy recounting experiences by word of mouth or in writing; it's almost like I'm reliving them. So in order to enable my listener or reader to fully grasp the entirety of the event, I would be as detailed as possible. I'm very much like Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre when it comes to telling stories. Jane Eyre's story could have been told in a third of the number of pages it took. I am not throwing any shade at the book, I loved it, it's one of my favourite stories. But within all of this lies my biggest problem with science writing: condensation.

Good science writing involves relaying information in the most concise manner that includes all of the necessary and important details.

Concision and I have never been friends.

But after having read a couple of papers for my summer REU project, and having had to read and give a presentation on a science article, I'm glad and grateful that scientists do not write the way I did. It was rather difficult learning how to pick the important information to include in my methods section or other parts of my paper, but after a few rounds of doing that, I feel like concision and I are starting to get along. I'm glad we get the opportunity to learn what we have about science writing, and I know it will be more than useful now and in the future.

It's Called Learning

It's okay to be clueless. It's called learning,

Walking into this class I was clueless. I have an incredible background knowledge bank, with 0 applications. Sure I had heard the words "Hill coefficient, plasmid, cell culture, etc," but in practice I was no where. So lab day 1, I walked in and thought how incredibly in over my head I was. However, through some magic I survived Mod 1 and here we all are.

What was I clueless about?
To try to be a little more specific than everything, here are the major things I have learned.

Protocols are awesome. When you're utterly clueless, if you have a protocol, it's all good. It's a bioengineering recipe. So long as you follow that, you can survive every day of lab, and there is that much less stress. This rule also applied to my UROP, which I have been also needed guidance here and there, and the protocols are key.

Reading scientific papers doesn't have to suck. I learned that you can't just half-read the paper, and not really think it through. As long as you digest the abstract of the paper, the rest will make a lot of sense. But if you just ignore the things that don't make sense, the rest of the paper won't either. As long as the paper isn't specifically required, then you probably can find one that interests you, which makes it all the better.

The homework assignments are extremely helpful. Not a single one has been a waste of time so far, all of them needed down the road. So it is incredibly important to not lose them when you get it back. I briefly misplaced my methods draft edits, and that caused a world of panic for the rewrite. However, the assignments do an amazing job of breaking up the work, so when it came to the final summary, it wasn't all that bad.

Teammates and partners. If there is one way to really get work done, it's by not being alone. The best resource to have is someone in the exact same situation as you. My lab partner, Yasemin, and two other WF'ers, Ada and Ann, all had the same mutation for Mod 1. This was incredibly nice for doing the final summary, as we could easily bounce ideas off of eachother as far as what is useful and what the results mean. Also, sometimes a partner may have gotten better data than you- and that can make your report 100x better.

The classic: Procrastination. There are a million forms of it, and I have yet to find a good form. From doing laundry, to watching a TV show, justifying your reason for not doing the assignments is terrible. I am currently watching House on netflix. Terrible decision, and I made it on my way back from class- the classic just one episode. However, here are two nice quotes I got from it, one should be how ethics is clarified for bioengineers, the second was clearly related to this blog post because of the shoutout to a centrifuge.

"As long as you're trying to be good, you can do whatever you want"
"It's a really sad thing; an uncalibrated centrifuge"

Anyways, if I were to get the assignments done first- I would probably feel a lot better about watching House. However, I have yet to learn this amazing decision making process, so maybe that can be an improvement for Mod 2, or Mod 3... or whenever I get around to it.

And since everyone seems to have some picture to include, here's what google had to say about "funny science"

How do I make friends?

On the first day of 20.109, I looked around the classroom and saw a few familiar faces (a.k.a. the people who had also taken 7.03, 5.12, and 20.110 last semester), but no one that I knew particularly well or was friends with, except for Ann.  Ann and I lived in the same suite in our dorm since the beginning of freshman year.  So when Ann and I both declared Course 20, I was excited to have one of my best friends at MIT be in the same major as me.  It was reassuring to know that I would have a friend in basically all of my classes for the rest of my MIT career.  Asking a friend for help on a pset would be as easy as walking a few feet from my room to Ann’s room.

As Noreen explained having lab partners on the first day of class, Ann and I looked around the room and agreed to be lab partners.  Although I did want to meet and become friends with more Course 20 sophomores, the convenience of being lab partners with someone who I already knew so well and was comfortable around overpowered the fear of having to talk to someone new.  Besides, Noreen had said that by the end of the semester, everyone in the class would get to know each other very well.  After all, we will be spending 8 hours a week in lab together.  I still had the chance to make new Course 20 friends without going through the effort of becoming lab partners with someone else…right?

By the time the draft of the protein engineering summary was due, I still had not made any new Course 20 friends.  Sure, I was friendly with everyone in our lab section, but I didn’t really know any of them at all.  During lab, I pretty much spent all my time with Ann. If I had Ann, did I really need more Course 20 friends?  It’d be nice but I resigned myself to not going out of my way to talk to anyone in our lab section.

The morning the draft was due, Ann and I were still pretty confused about what our results had meant.  Desperate times called for desperate measures… Desperate measures meaning messaging Greg and Yasemin, who did the same D23H mutation as we did.  After calming down from the social anxiety of messaging people you don’t really know for the first time, we decided to walk to the student center to get coffee and work in the reading room.  As we looked for an empty room (there were none), we found Greg and Yasemin working in one of the rooms!  They signaled us to join them and I was so grateful that they did.

For the next 7 hours, the four of us worked in the same room, asking each other questions about how they organized their summary and how they managed to fit all the information on each slide (being concise is really hard).  The last ten minutes before the draft was due deteriorated into a screaming party (apologies to all the people in the reading rooms that Saturday):
“Ah! Why won’t this fit??”
“Hurry there’s 5 minutes left!”
“Just send the email already!!!”
“Wait, what’s the email we send it to?”

Those 7 hours was a bonding experience I’ll likely never forget.  Even though it was a stressful 7 hours, the four of us conquered the protein engineering draft together!  And, I finally made my first Course 20 friends (who was not Ann)! 

If lab isn’t the place where you become friends with other people (who are not your lab partner) in 20.109, the reading room in student center where you work on the protein engineering summary draft for 7 hours is the place to go. 

Apparently, it is Possible to be Too Supportive

Gearing up for the start of the spring semester, it felt like this was finally the beginning of my time at MIT as a full-fledged Course 20, rather than a confused freshman taking GIRs. Upperclassmen had already warned me about the huge time sink that is 20.109, but also described it as the best way to launch into Course 20. I anticipated learning all about what it means to be a bioengineer in the lab, working more closely with the Course 20 staff, and finally getting to know some of the other Course 20 undergrads in my year.

When it came time to choose lab partners, Ada and I jumped at the chance to work together in our first foray into the bioengineering curriculum. It seemed like the perfect situation. I’d only have to travel a few feet from my door to hers when we “met up” to work on assignments. We already knew each other’s schedules and work habits. We are comfortable enough with each other to speak our opinions freely. And, eight hours of lab a week (plus however long it took to do the homework and Mod1 summary) becomes significantly more bearable when spent with someone you enjoy working with.

Thinking about it more, though, is it really a good idea to be lab partners with your best friend and suitemate, who is also in two other classes with you?

Through all the uncontrolled procrastination and desperately late nights, Ada and I learned a couple important lessons that, hopefully, will carry us more smoothly through Modules 2 and 3.

- Set the time and date. Somehow, what I thought was one of the best advantages, proximity to each other and therefore absence of need to walk any distance outside in the cold weather (I am lazy), turned out to be one of our biggest sources of procrastination. Rather than needing to set times to meet up    “Ada, let’s meet in the Stud at 6 tomorrow and start on the Mod1 summary many days ahead of time so that we will not suffer the day of!” – we managed to avoid ever planning times to work, and opted to just start whenever one of us brought it up. This is not ideal. In the future, we will be keeping our Mod1 Protein Engineering summary experience in mind as we plan out our work schedules.

- Do not encourage each other in our many procrastination methods. “I think we need to eat a snack before we begin our assignment”; “What if we both take naps in the lounge and then we can wake each other up in 30 minutes to work again”; “We need to do laundry right now, and then you should take a shower and then I will take a shower and then we will start”. Even on the plane back to MIT from spring break, trapped in seats next to each other for seven straight hours, the perfect opportunity to work on our Mod1 project revision, we managed to convince ourselves we had plenty of time together later. Knowing that our deadline was not limited by the time we would need to separate and no longer be able to work together, we definitely felt less urgency. We had all the time in the world, until the assignment was due.

Overall, I learned a lot from Module 1 – lab techniques, presentations, writing, working with partners – and going forward, Modules 2 and 3 will be just as educational, if not more.

Procrastination and an Awkward Presentation

The protein engineering mini-presentation sounds great in theory; it’s only three minutes long, it’s like giving an elevator pitch without having to talk to a real-life person, and you can record it as many times as you want and submit the best video!

With high hopes and lofty goals, I decided it would be a great idea to start the mini-presentation after lab on the day it was due. After all, I just needed to write an outline, record myself a couple times, and submit a flawless video. I had a meeting from 6-7:30 that evening, but I could finish the presentation between 5 and 6 and have plenty of time to study for the 9.09 midterm worth 40% of my grade, right? But as we all know, expectations don’t always correspond with reality.

Writing the Outline
Expectation: I had already submitted the protein engineering summary draft, so I could quickly model my presentation after that!

Reality: Three minutes is simultaneously very short and very long. It’s too short to include all of the details from the protein engineering summary, but it’s long enough to warrant putting a decent amount of time into creating an outline and preparing for the presentation. It was harder than I expected to choose the most important information to present!

Recording the Video
Expectation: The presentation is only 3 minutes long, so I could record it 6 times and be finished in less than 20 minutes! Six times should definitely be enough to get a perfect video!

Reality: There are at least 5 recordings of me messing up the words circularly permuted enhanced yellow fluorescent protein. There’s one recording that was going well until someone walked by and started watching me. There are some more recordings with awkward pauses that are too long and others that have too many minor mistakes. I also second-guessed myself a lot. Do I sound enthusiastic enough? Am I speaking too fast/slow? Am I including all of the important information? Why are all of these recordings so awkward? After finally making it through an entire presentation, I found that it was only 2 minutes and 40 seconds, so I had to add more content. Finally, after over an hour of recording, I finished a full presentation (admittedly with a couple mistakes) that was 3 minutes and 2 seconds long (win!), and I decided it was good enough.

Submitting the Video
Expectation: I could just quickly email the video to the correct email address!

Reality: I discovered that I needed to change the file type and compress my video before I could email it, which added even more time to what I had already put into the project. I emailed it to my boyfriend first to make sure he could open it and that everything was okay. The good news was that everything was okay! The bad news was that he took a bunch of screen shots of me during the video where I’m making really awkward facial expressions. At least he hasn’t posted them anywhere that I’m aware of… I ended up submitting it at 9, which was an hour before the deadline, but several hours after I had hoped to submit it. Then, I finally started studying for my 9.09 exam!

All in all, I’ve learned a lot of things from this mini-presentation and from 20.109 in general. Here are a few:

   1. It’s never a good idea to start a 20.109 assignment the day it’s due (or even the day before it’s due). It always takes longer than you think it will. Hopefully, I’ll start on journal club slides and Module 2 report earlier and maybe even get some work done on the weekends!
 2.    Embrace the awkwardness. Doing new things is often uncomfortable. The process of completing these assignments isn’t always fun, but the results are very rewarding!

 3.    Practicing actually does make things easier. After completing the mini-presentation, I am (slightly) more comfortable going into my journal club presentation. I’m also a lot faster and better at making things such as figures and captions than I was at the beginning of the semester!

I’m excited to see what the rest of 20.109 has in store for me, but I am also glad there are no more mini-presentations!