Coming Soon to MITx: Digital Systems, Space Flight, DNA Repair

Photo of an astronaut in spacesuit standing on a platform in space.

Jeffrey Hoffman, instructor of the upcoming MITx course 16.00x, in a 1993 spacewalk to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Starting in March, a number of exciting MITx courses are being offered for the first time on the edX platform.

6.004.1x Computational Structures — Part 1: Digital Circuits

Have you ever thought about creating a computer from scratch? The 6.004x series of courses offers the opportunity to do just that. This first installment in the seriesis a bottom-up exploration of the abstractions, principles, and techniques used in the design of digital systems,” the course site says. All you need is “a rudimentary knowledge of electricity and some exposure to programming.”

The course is taught by Senior Lecturer Chris Terman, Professor Steve Ward, and Lecturer Silvina Hanono Wachman. It starts on March 3 and lasts for 11 weeks.

OCW offers a version of Professor Ward’s on-campus foundation for the series, 6.004 Computation Structures. The OCW course site has a full set of lecture notes, tutorial problems with solutions, exams with solutions, and labs.

16.00x Introduction to Aerospace Engineering: Aeronautics and Human Spaceflight

Been dreaming since you were a kid of what it would be like to see the earth from outer space? Wishing you might one day get the chance to go for a spacewalk?

Prepare yourself! Study with someone who has!

Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, the lead instructor, knows something about space travel. He was a NASA astronaut from 1978 to 1997 and made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle.  He has taken four spacewalks.

The course explores “how rockets work, how spacecraft move in orbit, how we create artificial environments inside spacecraft to keep astronauts alive and healthy, what it’s like living in a world without gravity, how the human body adapts to space, and how spacewalks happen.” Blast-off is scheduled for March 3, and the flight will last eight weeks.

Professor Hoffman is no stranger to OCW either. He has published two courses: 16.885J Aircraft Systems Engineering  and 16.891J Space Policy Seminar (with Professor Daniel Hastings).

[** Update 2/19/15: Here’s the results of Professor Hoffman’s Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.]

7.28.1x Molecular Biology: DNA Replication and Repair

“Did you know that your cells synthesize enough DNA during your lifetime to stretch a lightyear in length? How does the cellular machinery accomplish such a feat without making more mistakes than you can survive?” The course site opens with this mind-boggler. It goes on, “Why isn’t the incidence of cancer even higher than it is? And, if the DNA in each and every cell is two meters long, how is this genetic material compacted to fit inside the cell nucleus without becoming a tangled mess?”

Welcome to the world of modern molecular genetics, where the astounding gets mutated into the factual. The course is intended to help students “build [their] experimental design and data analysis skills” in molecular biology.

Professors Stephen Bell and Tania Baker are the lead instructors. The course starts on March 10 and lasts eight weeks.

OCW has a version of the on-campus course 7.28 Molecular Biology, as it was taught in Spring 2005.

The only prerequisite for 7.28.1x is a course in introductory biology along the lines of 7.00x Introduction to Biology or OCW’s 7.01SC Fundamentals of Biology or 7.013 Introductory Biology.

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