20.109(S12): RNA engineering report

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20.109(S12): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Back to Module 1.



The culminating assignment for Module 1 will be a laboratory report in which you describe your RNA engineering investigation. It is essential that you relate not merely what you did but why you did it, and not only what your data presently shows but what it means for the future. The target audience for this report is a scientifically literate reader who is unfamiliar with your specific field. Thus, you can assume rapid comprehension – but not a priori knowledge – of technical information, and consequently should strive to present your work in a logical, step-by-step fashion.

Be sure to review the 20.109 statement on collaboration and integrity as you proceed.


Method of Submission

Please email your completed report to 20109 DOT submit AT gmail DOT com, with filename Firstinitial_Lastname_LabSection_Mod1.doc (for example, S_Hockfield_TR_Mod2.doc).

First Draft Submission: March 13th/14th

The first draft of your research article is due by 11 am on March 13th (Tuesday) or March 14th (Wednesday), according to which day you have lab.

Professor Niles will comment on all reports. Additionally, you may request written feedback from your section-specific writing instructor at the time you submit your report.

Revised Article Submission: April 5th/6th

Your commented first draft will be returned on March 22nd (Thursday) or 23rd (Friday). You will then have the opportunity to revise your report for up to a one and one-third letter grade improvement. In other words, a C can be revised up to an B+, a C+ to an A-, a B- to an A, etc. ) The final draft is due by 11 am on April 5th (Thursday) or April 6th (Friday), according to which day you have lab. Please highlight any substantial revisions to your text, for example, by using a different colored font or a track changes function.

Formatting Expectations

  • Your main document (excluding figures) should be/have
    • .doc (preferred) or .pdf
    • 12-pt font
    • with 1-inch margins
    • double-spaced (excepting the abstract)
  • Figures can be made in a separate drawing program (such as powerpoint), and should be submitted as .pdf

Guidelines on Length

Not counting figures, report length should be about 10-13 pages, and certainly not exceed 15 pages.

Though somewhat variable, typical section lengths might be:

  • Introduction: 2-3 pages
  • Methods: ~3 pages
  • Results: 3-4 pages
  • Discussion: 3-4 pages

Content Guidelines

Begin by reading the general guidelines for scientific writing, which describe the expectations for every section of the report, from Abstract to References. A few notes specific to Module 1 are below:


You are welcome to use your own creativity and judgement as to what a good introduction should look like; however, you may find the suggested structure (see also general guidelines) and content below useful. One approach you may choose is to emphasize method optimization to motivate your introduction, and to address the following guiding questions:

  • Paragraph 1
    • What is SELEX?
    • What are some benchmarks (in your own reasoning) that if attained, would maximize SELEX’s efficiency and accessibility.
    • What are some key parameters to optimize in achieving your desired efficiency?
  • Paragraph 2
    • Which parameter(s) have you chosen to investigate in your present study?
    • What is the rationale for choosing to explore this parameter in the context of improving selection efficiency? (That is, how is this parameter linked to selection efficiency?)
  • Paragraph 3
    • Why did you choose your specific conditions? [Consider this in the context of the parameter space covered as a lab section, in addition to what you are doing individually.]
    • Your expectations for how the outcome will vary as a function of your explored parameter space.
    • A brief summary of how you intend to assess whether your experiment worked (yours individually, and pooled across your lab section).
    • A brief overview of your results and conclusions.

Suggested Figures

Your report is expected to contain more or less the following figures. Of course you are welcome to make modifications and additions as you see fit. Recall that figures should generally be described in the Results section.

  • Schematics/diagrams
    • Schematic showing overall experimental plan and main steps involved
  • Figures
    • Gel from initial PCR
    • Gel with RT-PCR samples
    • Binding curves for your own set of data
  • Table and/or Figure
    • Binding data for entire class (processed, not raw)


You are not expected to do a thorough survey of the relevant primary literature for this first report. However, your introduction (and potentially discussion) should contain a total of at least three references.


The full descriptive rubric for lab reports can be found on the guidelines page.
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