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Updates to biology laboratory requirements

Student pipetting

The Department of Biology will be modifying its laboratory classes to increase flexibility in the curriculum.

Raleigh McElvery

As part of an initiative to increase flexibility in the curriculum, the Department of Biology will be modifying its laboratory requirements over the next two years. These changes will make it easier for students to become acquainted with lab techniques during their first year at MIT, permitting them to join faculty-run labs as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) soon after they arrive.

Effective fall of 2019, the 18-unit 7.02 (Introduction to Experimental Biology and Communication) will be replaced by two new classes: the six-unit 7.002 (Fundamentals of Experimental Molecular Biology) and the 12-unit 7.003 (not yet named).  7.02 will continue to be offered in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019 while 7.002 is introduced concurrently.

“This modification to our curriculum should enable students to gain experience in laboratory techniques and approaches as early as their first year,” says Department Head Alan Grossman. “It will prepare them to join research labs as UROP students and to work with graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members in a collaborative research setting.”

Students at lab bench7.02 has traditionally served as an introduction to experimental concepts and methods in molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. However, it requires the time commitment of roughly one-and-a-half full classes, making it difficult for first-year students to fit it into their schedule while still completing their General Institute Requirements. Students taking 7.02  also bring a wide range of lab experiences; some have completed related internships during high school, while others have little or no research experience.

“7.02 prepares students to pursue UROPs in the biological sciences,” says Dennis Kim, undergraduate officer and Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Immunology. “However, the 18 units of 7.02 make the course difficult to take before sophomore year. 7.002 can be taken at an earlier time, even in the first year. This will give students an experimental laboratory experience at an earlier stage of their education, facilitating the pursuit of UROPs.”

7.002 will be fewer units, not have any pre-requisites, and allow first-year students to get acquainted with basic methods of molecular biology. 7.003, by contrast, will serve as a second subject in experimental biology, and likely require co-requisites like 7.03 (Genetics) and 7.05 (General Biochemistry).

7.002 will be offered for the first time during the fall of 2018, although students will still have the option to enroll in 7.02 at this time. Beginning in the fall of 2019, 7.003 will be offered as a follow-up to 7.002, and 7.02 will no longer be offered. 7.002 will fulfill six units towards completion of the Institute Lab Requirement.

“These revisions to our lab curriculum stem from our larger effort to give students more flexibility in selecting their classes,” Grossman says. “The structure of 7.002 should also make it easier for students to receive additional information and guidance from department faculty members about opportunities in curiosity-driven life science research.”

The development and launch of 7.002 is supported by the d’Arbeloff Fund.