Experimental Molecular Biology: Biotechnology II

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 7.16 (Spring 2005)
Course Title: Experimental Molecular Biology: Biotechnology II
Course Level: Undergraduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Department: Biology
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Christopher Burge
Prof. David Sabatini
Dr. Marilee Ogren-Balkema
Dr. Alice Rushforth
Course Introduction:
Syllabus About this Course

The course applies molecular biology and reverse genetics approaches to the study of apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD), in Drosophila cells.

RNAinterference (RNAi), or double stranded RNA-mediated gene silencing, will be used to inhibit expression of candidate apoptosis-related genes in cultured Drosophila cells. Teams of 2 or 3 students will design and carry out experiments to address questions about the genes involved in the regulation and execution of PCD in this system.

Texts and Materials

There are no required text books. Relevant papers, protocols and other information will be provided in course binders or made available on the course web site.

Structure of Class

Students break into teams of 2 or 3. For the first three weeks, all teams will work on the Common Project (P0), which involves inducing cell death in S2 cells by depleting the mRNA of the DIAP1 gene, which represses apoptosis.

During this time, each team chooses a Team Project from the list provided or devises their own Team Project. Each team then researches this project and writes up a proposal - incorporating suggestions from the writing instructor - describing a set of experiments that will be done to address a question about the mechanism or regulation of apoptosis. This proposal is due at the end of session 14.

The teams then revise these proposals in response to comments from the instructors. The rest of the class is devoted to carrying out the experiments described in the proposals, and writing up the results. Teams present their results at weekly lab meetings, held every Friday starting in session 15.


There are three written assignments:

The Team Project ProposalThe Minireview PaperThe Final Paper

Written assignments must be turned in on the due date at the start of the class to be eligible for full credit. Assignments turned in up to three days after the due date are eligible for half credit (except the final paper).

No assignments will be accepted after this time. No Exceptions.

Lab books will be reviewed weekly by the TAs. Lab performance and lab meeting presentations will be evaluated by the instructors. There are no exams.


Grades will be assigned based on the following:

GradingACTIVITIESPERCENTAGESTeam Project Proposal20%Lab Presentations10%Lab Performance10%Lab Notebook10%Minireview10%Final Paper40%

It is important to emphasize that the grade is based mostly on effort and quality of work, rather than on whether or not all of the experiments "worked" or yielded interesting results.

Team members are encouraged to work together on planning the project proposal, lab presentations, intro/methods and final paper, but all written assignments (and oral presentations) must be done individually.

Intellectual Honesty

We hope and trust that academic misconduct will not occur during this course. We nevertheless want to emphasize that we will be rigorous in our enforcement of Institute rules. It is the policy of the Biology Department to keep a record of all cases of academic misconduct and to forward cases to the Dean of Undergraduate and Student Affairs.