Saturday, May 14, 2016

To Be Your Own PI (kind of)

My idea for an addition to 20.109 isn’t so much to replace a module with something else but more like an addendum for after the class. I think the notion of getting more experience in experimental design was touched upon during our class wide feedback, and is something I also wish there was more of in 20.109. The research grant proposal was a really awesome way of getting us to think more creatively about the stuff we had been exposed to in the class, but because it wasn’t actually going to be ever acted upon, I think there were some parts of the experimental design that I kind of brushed off. But more importantly, my project is something that I think would have been really cool to pursue in an actual lab setting (and even emailed the author of the base paper after the end of the project). I’ve heard rumors about being able to take 380 in the fall and pursue the project in the spring, and I think a smaller scale version could be done with 109. Maybe in a UROP type setting that allows us to use the resources in the 109 teaching lab in the semester following the class. Because part of our assignment was to incorporate techniques used in 20.109, I think creating a UROP to actually do the experiments could be feasible within the equipment available in the teaching lab. 

Thanks to 20.109 we might have some idea what we're doing.
Given that our projects were on a much smaller scale than 380 projects, I think a UROP setting could be appropriate as opposed to a full class. Obviously, a proposition like this would require much more detailed plans for the students beyond what was done for the research proposal, but I think it would allow students to get much more invested in their research proposal projects as well as given them a taste of doing research on a topic entirely of their choosing instead of being dropped into a predefined UROP. I was lucky enough to go to a faculty dinner with Professor Belcher yesterday, and she was talking about how exciting it is to be your own boss and to really think and develop the ideas that excite you. I think a post-20.109 UROP set up like this would be an excellent opportunity for students to try that out.

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