This Course at MIT

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 7.016 Introductory Biology as it was taught by Prof. Barbara Imperiali, Prof. Angelika B. Amon, and Dr. Diviya Sinha in Fall 2014.

This course provided an introduction to fundamental principles of biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics for understanding the functions of living systems. Taught for the first time in Fall 2013, 7.016 covered examples of the use of chemical biology and twenty-first-century molecular genetics in understanding human health and therapeutic intervention. Learn more here:

Xu, K. "Life explained differently: two new intro biology classes," The Tech, October 18, 2013.

Delmore, A. "The new faces of the GIRs: makeovers in biology, chemistry," The Tech, January 31, 2014.

Gill, S. "Biology department creates 6-7 MEng with EECS, new GIR classes," The Tech, April 19, 2013.

Lao, C. "ASE pass rates up for most GIRs, especially biology," The Tech, October 21, 2014.

 

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Gain an understanding of biochemistry genetics, molecular biology, recombinant DNA technology, and cell biology
  • Examine these topics through the lens of chemistry

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

None.

Requirements Satisfied

  • Biology GIR 
  • This course can be applied toward a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Offered

Every fall semester

The Classroom

  • Image of tiered tables and chairs with an instructors table at the front of the room.

    Lecture

    This course was taught in a room simmilar to what is shown in this photo, with tiered fixed furniture tables and chairs, LCD projector, screen, sound system, and board space.

 

Assessment

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by term exams. 45% Term Exams (100 points each, 300 points total)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by problem sets. 20% Problem Sets (20 points each, 120 points total)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by a comprehensive final. 35% Comprehensive Final (200 points total)
 

Read insights from Dr. Diviya Sinha about assessment.

Student Information

188 students took this course when it was offered in Fall 2014.

Breakdown by Year

Mostly freshmen.

Typical Student Background

Typically, some students who enroll in the course already have a strong interest in biology and chemistry and are able to explain the material well; occasionally, these students become tutors or graders after they complete the course.

 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Lectures

3 hours per week
  • Met 3 times per week for 1 hour per session; mandatory attendance.
  • Lectures included the use of clicker questions .
 

Recitation

2 hours per week
  • Met 2 times per week for 1 hour per session; attendance was expected.
  • Teaching assistants supported students as they worked on problem set questions.
 

Out of Class

7 hours per week
  • Students completed readings, problem sets, and prepared for exams.
  • Attended optional office hours and tutoring sessions.
 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled.
2 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
3 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
4 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
5 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; exam held. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled.
6 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
7 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled.
8 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
9 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
10 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; exam held. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled.
11 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled.
12 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
13 Lecture session scheduled; exam held. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
14 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date.
15 Lecture session scheduled. Recitation session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT; final exam held. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lecture sessions are held. Lecture session
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when recitation sessions are held. Recitation session
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when exams are held. Exam
 

Instructor Insights

I’ve also found that offering one-on-one tutoring helps me get to know students and understand the material with which they are struggling.

—Dr. Diviya Sinha

Below, Dr. Diviya Sinha describes assessment in 7.016 Introductory Biology.

Assessment in large lecture classes can be challenging because professors have limited opportunities to interact one-on-one with students. One way we assess students’ learning during lectures is by using clicker questions. If, through their responses, students indicate that they do not understand fundamental concepts, we address these concepts immediately in the lecture.

In addition to using clicker questions, we also get regular feedback from teaching assistants, who work closely with the students twice a week. Collective feedback from all of the teaching assistants gives us a good indication of how the class, as a whole, is doing with the material. I’ve also found that offering one-on-one tutoring helps me get to know students and understand the material with which they are struggling.

Of course, we also assess students’ learning via exams. In creating exams for the course, it’s very important to ensure that the content of the exams is a fair representation of the material introduced in the lectures and practiced by students in the recitations and through problem sets. It’s also important that questions are written at a certain level of difficulty so that we can distinguish students who are completing A-level work from students completing B-level work.

After I complete a first draft of an exam, it goes through four or five rounds of editing. Each round involves one or two teaching assistants, who not only provide comments regarding whether or not concepts are over or underemphasized on the assessment, but also take the exam. If the exam is a 50-minute exam, I make sure the teaching assistants are able to complete it in 20 or 25 minutes. Only then can we expect students to complete it within 50 minutes. Once the final draft is almost complete, I send it to the professors to review and they provide me with comments. It’s important that everyone on the teaching team be involved so that the exam can be as fair and as challenging as possible.