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Fall Semester

During the first semester, students are required to take three cores courses and one elective. The core courses consist of Methods in Logic, Graduate Biochemistry, and Graduate Genetics. The purpse of the core courses are two-fold. First, they function to help students from a number of diverse scientific backgrounds strengthen their knowledge of central principles of modern biology. Second, because the entire first-year class takes the core courses together, they also serve to strengthen the bond between students. First-years  
are encouraged to work together in these courses, so that everyone can benefit from the range of knowledge brought by each individual. Because students do not have to worry about lab work during the first semester, this is a good opportunity to foster social interactions as well. The Pit is an especially important aspect of the first year which helps provide a convenient central location for both social and academic interaction.

Methods and Logic is a course designed to encourage students to think critically about current and classic scientific papers. Papers are selected from a range of topics, which gives students exposure to many areas within the field of biology. Groups of 15 students meet once a week to go over the papers, with particular emphasis placed on the methodology employed by the authors. This peer discussion provides an opportunity for students to receive clarification on topics and techniques that were unclear. Later in the week, two professors join the students to discuss the papers in more depth and answer any remaining questions.

Graduate Biochemistry is a lecture course designed to provide students with general knowledge of this discipline including common techniques and approaches to solving questions by employing biochemistry. Topics such as kinetics, equilibria, thermodynamics, protein purification, reaction mechanisms, and coupled vectoral processes are covered. This course was taught by Bob Sauer, Tania Baker, and Frank Solomon.  

Graduate Genetics is also a lecture course, whose purpose is to introduce students to a variety of approaches utilized by this discipline in different organisms (human, mouse, fly, yeast, worm, bacteria, etc). There is a strong emphasis on problem solving in this course, designed to help point out the advantages and limitations of given techniques in each organism. Topics covered include chromosome aberrations, population genetics, sex determination, epistasis, suppressors/enhancers, screens, and maternal effects. This course was taught by Bob Horvitz and Terry Orr-Weaver.

  There are a number of elective classes that can be taken, depending on individual interest. Courses include Genetic Neuorbiology, Development, Topics in Protein Biochemistry, and Mammalian Development and Genetics. Some people have sat in on a bunch of these electives early in the year to "shop" the course and later on settle on a single elective. However, really dedicated students can sometimes stretch themselves with two electives for the fall (not recommended).

Independent Activities Period (IAP)

During January, every faculty member talks to the first-year class for one hour about the projects in their laboratory. Several Happy Hours are also scheduled during the month to provide an opportunity for students to talk to members of different labs. Students are also encouraged to attend lab meetings, visit labs and meet with professors to discuss their research.

Spring Semester and Rotations

Following IAP, students submit a list of four rotations choices. This year almost everyone received their top choice for the first rotation. Each rotation lasts approximately one month. Students may structure their rotation as they like. Rotations can be as basic as directed reading on the professor's research to as in depth as working on an independent project within the lab. Because of the short duration of the rotation,
  no expectations are placed on students in terms of work accomplished or techniques learned. Rather, the rotations provide a chance for students to gain a sense of the social/working environment of the lab and to decide whether the reseach is appealing. In addition to rotations, students take three elective courses during this semester. There are many courses offered, including Cell Biology, Gene Expression, Nucleic Acids, Zebrafish Genetics/Development, Protein Folding, and Cancer Biology.

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Last Updated February, 2000. Bio99@MIT