Courses from MIT’s 2020 MacVicar Fellows

Four faculty portrait photos.

The 2020 MacVicar Faculty Fellows are (clockwise from top left):
Polina Anikeeva, Jacob White, William Tisdale, and Mary Fuller.
Photo credits (clockwise from top left):
Lillie Paquette, Sampson Wilcox, Webb Chappell, Jon Sachs

By Peter Chipman, OCW Digital Publication Specialist and OCW Educator Assistant

For the past 28 years, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program has honored several MIT professors each year who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, educational innovation, and mentoring.

This year’s awardees are Professors Polina Anikeeva (materials science and engineering), Mary Fuller (literature), William Tisdale (chemical engineering), and Jacob White (electrical engineering and computer science).

OCW is honored to share courses from three of this year’s Fellows:

Polina Anikeeva

Mary Fuller

Jacob White

Interested in Instructor Insights from past MacVicar Fellows? Visit our OCW Educator portal to search for Insights from MIT Teaching Award Recipients. Delve into the minds of Arthur Bahr, Wit Busza, Catherine Drennan, Lorna Gibson, and many other MIT professors advancing teaching and learning in their fields.

Learning to Read the Scholarly Literature

hela cells

Specimens from a line of cultured human cells used for medical research. (Image by Tom Deerinck, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, courtesy of NIH Image Gallery on Flickr. License CC BY.)

Students in MIT Biology’s Advanced Undergraduate Seminars hone their professional skills by studying specialized topics in depth.

By Peter Chipman, OCW Digital Publication Specialist and OCW Educator Assistant

If you browse the OpenCourseWare offerings in Biology, quickly skimming the list of course numbers, you’re likely to be struck by how many courses have numbers between 7.340 and 7.349: there are eight versions of 7.340, ten versions of 7.341, eighteen versions of 7.342, and so on. In fact, these ten course numbers account for well over half of the OCW courses in Biology. 

Why do we include so many versions of the same few subjects? Actually, all of the courses with numbers 7.340 through 7.349 are on different topics, though they’re all the same in one crucial respect: they’re all Advanced Undergraduate Seminars. The Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are courses designed to allow students to study and discuss primary literature while learning about current biological research.

How They Work

Prerequisites vary slightly from one course to another, but the seminars typically require students to have taken introductory courses in topics such as cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics. The class size is limited to eight students to ensure as much interaction as possible between student and instructor. And the instructors for the seminars are typically postdoctoral research scientists with a strong interest in teaching; they’re thus uniquely qualified to help their students learn to read research articles and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the experiments presented.

Class sessions are designed to be as interactive as possible. Typically, before each week’s session, students are asked to read one or two primary research papers. They’re expected to come to class having read the papers thoroughly, and to be prepared to discuss and critique each paper. In order to ensure that students are fully prepared, some instructors require each student to submit one or two questions based on the reading by email before each class; these questions then form the basis for the class discussion. In other cases, instructors assign each student a role in leading the class by explaining or interpreting one figure from one of the readings each week. The goal is for the students to be the ones actively propelling the discussion, with the instructor serving primarily as a facilitator and factual resource.  

Two Instructors Share Their Perspective

At the Instructor Insights page for 7.341 The Microbiome and Drug Delivery: Cross-species Communication in Health and Disease, you can find a video interview with the course’s instructors, Dr. Ali Beyzavi and Dr. Miguel Jimenez. In the various chapters of this video, Drs. Beyzavi and Jimenez share their strategies for teaching students to read the primary literature, the role of instructors’ questions in guiding class discussions, the surprising structure of their course’s mid-term assignment, the way the final presentations summed up what the students had been learning throughout the course, the reason why the class field trip was to a biotech firm rather than to an MIT lab, and what post-docs like themselves stand to gain from teaching an Advanced Undergraduate Seminar.

The Range of Offerings

For examples of the kinds of topics covered in Advanced Undergraduate Seminars, check out this small sampling of the seminars represented on OCW:

7.340 Nano-Life: An Introduction to Virus Structure and Assembly
7.341 DNA’s Sister Does All the Work: The Central Roles of RNA in Gene Expression
7.342 A Double-Edged Sword: Cellular Immunity in Health and Disease
7.343 An RNA Safari: Exploring the Surprising Diversity of Mammalian Transcriptomes
7.345 The Science of Sperm
7.345 Survival in Extreme Conditions: The Bacterial Stress Response
7.347 Living Dangerously: How the Immune System Maintains Peace with Trillions of Commensal Bacteria while Preventing Pathogenic Invasions
7.349 Biological Computing: At the Crossroads of Engineering and Science

IAP: A Fusion of Fun and Learning at MIT

A Texas Hold’em game from a player’s point of view. (Courtesy of Peter Hopper on Flickr. License CC BY-NC.)

Every January, MIT students, faculty, and staff come together and design a special learning experience. Infused with creativity, inventiveness and fun, the four week term, known as Independent Activities Period (IAP), gives rise to some of the most ingenious courses that aren’t all part of the MIT curriculum.

From beekeeping to Japanese archery and computational law to academic resilience storytelling, the variety of workshops and sessions are created and organized by MIT members passionate about their subject area.

On OCW, there are more than 100 IAP courses that are available for you to work through at your own pace. The following are a sample of IAP courses, but you can find all of the IAP courses on OCW.

15.S50 Poker Theory and Analytics

This course takes a broad-based look at poker theory and applications of poker analytics to investment management and trading.

This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT in January. IAP provides members of the MIT community including students, faculty, staff, and alums with an opportunity to organize, sponsor and participate in a wide variety of activities and topics that are often outside of the regular MIT curriculum.

18.S097 Applied Category Theory

Category theory is a relatively new branch of mathematics that has transformed much of pure math research. The technical advance is that category theory provides a framework in which to organize formal systems and by which to translate between them, allowing one to transfer knowledge from one field to another. But this same organizational framework also has many compelling examples outside of pure math. In this course, we will give seven sketches on real-world applications of category theory.

6.S095 Programming for the Puzzled

This class builds a bridge between the recreational world of algorithmic puzzles (puzzles that can be solved by algorithms) and the pragmatic world of computer programming, teaching students to program while solving puzzles. Python syntax and semantics required to understand the code are explained as needed for each puzzle.

6.057 Introduction to MATLAB

This is an accelerated introduction to MATLAB® and its popular toolboxes. Lectures are interactive, with students conducting sample MATLAB problems in real time. The course includes problem-based MATLAB assignments. Students must provide their own laptop and software. This is great preparation for classes that use MATLAB.

21W.794 Graduate Technical Writing Workshop

This course is designed to improve the student’s ability to communicate technical information. It covers the basics of working with sources, including summarizing and paraphrasing, synthesizing source materials, citing, quoting, and avoiding plagiarism. It also covers how to write an abstract and a literature review. In addition, we will cover communication concepts, tools, and strategies that can help you understand how engineering texts work, and how you can make your texts work more effectively.

Learn to Build Your Own Videogame with the Unity Game Engine and Microsoft Kinect

This is a 9-day hands-on workshop about designing, building, and publishing simple educational videogames. No previous experience with computer programming or videogame design is required; beginning students will be taught everything they need to know and advanced students will be challenged to learn new skills. Participants will learn about videogame creation using the Unity game engine, collaborative software development using GitHub, gesture handling using the Microsoft Kinect, 3D digital object creation, videogame design, and small team management.

Climate Action Hands-On: Harnessing Science with Communities to Cut Carbon

This course explores how citizen science can support community actions to combat climate change. Participants will learn about framing problems, design ways to gather data, gather some of their own field data, and consider how the results can enable action. Leaks in the natural gas system—a major source of methane emissions, and a powerful contributor to climate change—will be a particular focus.

Love is love is love is love

Love is a many-splendored thing, and on OCW, there is so much to love and learn.

Our amazing team of OCW Digital Publication Specialists offer you a short list of MIT courses that delve into the subject of love in all of its varied roles in history, music and culture.

  • CC.112 Philosophy of Love – Explore the nature of love through works of philosophy, literature, film, poetry, and individual experience. This course investigates the distinction among eros, philia, and agape. Students discuss ideas of love as a feeling, an action, a species of ‘knowing someone,’ or a way to give or take.
  • 24.261 Philosophy of Love in the Western World – This course is a seminar on the nature of love and sex, approached as topics both in philosophy and in literature. Readings include recent philosophy as well as classic myths of love that occur in works of literature and lend themselves to philosophical analysis.
  • 21L.000J Writing About Literature: Writing About Love – Designed around analyzing intimate bonds and the permutations of heartbreak, this course focuses on the analysis of a set of relations in novels, short stories, poetry, music videos, and live theatre. We’ll consider the transformative states of the lover’s (un)becoming, for how consciousness is constituted by bonds yet how the lover transcends crisis in the moment of the epiphany that surfaces in love’s very failure; indeed, love itself becomes narcissistically yet optimistically illuminating, even in its oppressive hold.
  • 21L.460 Medieval Literature: Love, Sex, and Marriage – It is easy to think of love as a “universal language” – but do ideas about love translate easily across history, culture, and identity? In this course, we will encounter some surprising, even disturbing ideas about love and sex from medieval writers and characters: For instance, that married people can never be in love, that the most satisfying romantic love incorporates pain and violence, and that intense erotic pleasure can be found in celibate service to God. Through Arthurian romances, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, love letters, mystical visions, and more, we will explore medieval attitudes toward marriage, sexuality, and gender roles. What can these perspectives teach us about the uniqueness of the Middle Ages—and how do medieval ideas about love continue to influence the beliefs and fantasies of our own culture?
  • 21A.111J / WGS.172J For Love and Money: Rethinking the Family – Through investigating cross-cultural case studies, this course introduces students to the anthropological study of the social institutions and symbolic meanings of family, gender, and sexuality. Explore the myriad forms that families and households take and consider their social, emotional, and economic dynamics.
  • ES.S60 The Art and Science of Happiness – This seminar looks at current theories on happiness and positive psychology as well as practical implications of those theories for our own lives. It explores the concept of happiness, different cultural definitions of happiness, and the connection between happiness, optimism, and meaning. Also explored are practical strategies for creating more opportunities for happiness in our lives and for learning how to deal more effectively with sources of unhappiness.
  • 21M.299 The Beatles (See week XI for All You Need is Love) This class surveys the music of the Beatles, from the band’s early years to the break-up of the group, mapping how the Beatle’s musical style changed from skiffle and rock to studio-based experimentation. Cultural influences that helped to shape them, as well as the group’s influence worldwide, will be a continuous theme.

Love to find more topics on OCW?  Check out our find by topics course finder.

2019 is Your New Year of Learning!

2019 is your new year of learning! To kick off your educational journey, our fabulous team of OCW Publication Specialists came up with some of the essential courses to ignite your entrepreneurial spirit and exercise your creativity and logical thinking.

Consider the following as gentle suggestions for your new year resolutions. And may your curiosity be your guide!

Be Your Own Boss With These Entrepreneurship Courses:

  • 16.660J / ESD.62J / 16.853 Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods -This course covers the fundamental principles, practices and tools of Lean Six Sigma methods that underlay modern organizational productivity approaches applied in aerospace, automotive, health care, and other sectors. It includes lectures, active learning exercises, a plant tour, talks by industry practitioners, and videos.
  • 15.S21 Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans – Devise your master plan with this course that covers the basics of starting your new venture. The course includes a video and slide player to see the lecturer while the slides advance automatically.

  • 15.390 New Enterprises – The video tutorials are great for people who want to start their own business, further develop an existing business, be a member of a management team in a new enterprise, or better understand the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial process.

New Year’s Resolution: Learn Something New

New Year’s Resolution: Travel More

  • 21L.007 World Literatures: Travel Writing – Read writing about travel and place from Columbus’s Diario through the present. (The reading list is particularly good.) Travel writing has some special features that will shape both the content and the work for this subject: reflecting the point of view, narrative choices, and style of individuals, it also responds to the pressures of a real world only marginally under their control. Whether the traveler is a curious tourist, the leader of a national expedition, or a starving, half-naked survivor, the encounter with place shapes what travel writing can be.

New Year’s Resolution: Read More

  • 21L.004 Reading Poetry – How do you read a poem? Intuition is not the only answer. In this class, we will investigate some of the formal tools poets use—meter, sound, syntax, word-choice, and other properties of language—as well as exploring a range of approaches to reading poetry, from the old (memorization and reading out loud) to the new (digitally enabled visualization and annotation).
  • 21L.001 Foundations of Western Culture: Homer to Dante – As we read broadly from throughout the vast chronological period that is “Homer to Dante,” we will pepper our readings of individual ancient and medieval texts with broader questions like: what images, themes, and philosophical questions recur through the period; are there distinctly “classical” or “medieval” ways of depicting or addressing them; and what do terms like “Antiquity” or “the Middle Ages” even mean?
  • 21L.002 Foundations of Western Culture: The Making of the Modern World – This course comprises a broad survey of texts, literary and philosophical, which trace the development of the modern world from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century. Intrinsic to this development is the growth of individualism in a world no longer understood to be at the center of the universe. The texts chosen for study exemplify the emergence of a new humanism, at once troubled and dynamic in comparison to the old.
  • 21L.430 / CMS.920 Popular Culture and Narrative: Use and Abuse of the Fairy Tale – We ask where Fairy Tales come from and we examine the structure of Fairy Tales. We’ll also look at how Fairy Tales are conditioned by oral transmission and inherited story-telling techniques.

New Year’s Resolution: Laugh More

 

Want to learn even more? Check out any and all 2,447 free MIT courses on OCW!

Featured Collection: Environment Courses

Photo of several people on a hilltop looking over a city, with the ocean in the distance.Like so many of the big challenges taken on at MIT, environmental issues demand an interdisciplinary perspective.

From declining fisheries to acute urban pollution to record-breaking global temperatures, the evidence of human impact on the environment continues to mount. And at the same time, the environment shapes us, as human society and institutions are built upon our connection to the weather, land, water, and other species. What can we learn from ecological systems and cycles? What are the right solutions to our urgent environmental challenges?

MIT scholars, students and alumni are working to understand and help us make progress toward a more sustainable and just world. This core mission draws upon all of the fields represented at MIT: not just science, engineering, and technology, but also the humanities, arts, economics, history, architecture, urban planning, management, policy, and more. Use OCW materials from across these fields to expand your horizons and learn more about our evolving relationship with the environment.

OCW’s Environment Courses list is inspired by two interdisciplinary MIT programs. Many of the list’s undergraduate courses fall within the undergraduate Environment and Sustainability Minor devised by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), and the OCW course list employs the undergraduate minor’s four topic pillars. Many of the list’s graduate-level courses are part of the MIT Sloan School of Management Sustainability Certificate curriculum.

Begin your exploration with these highlights from OCW’s collection of over 160 Environment courses.

Earth Systems and Climate Science

12.009J Theoretical Environmental Analysis
This course analyzes cooperative processes that shape the natural environment, now and in the geologic past. It emphasizes the development of theoretical models that relate the physical and biological worlds, the comparison of theory to observational data, and associated mathematical methods.

12.340 Global Warming Science
This course provides students with a scientific foundation of anthropogenic climate change and an introduction to climate models. It focuses on fundamental physical processes that shape climate (e.g. solar variability, orbital mechanics, greenhouse gases, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and volcanic and soil aerosols) and on evidence for past and present climate change. The course considers material consequences of climate change, including sea level change, variations in precipitation, vegetation, storminess, and the incidence of disease, and also examines the science behind mitigation and adaptation proposals.

Engineering for Sustainability

EC.716 D-Lab: Waste
This introductory course takes a multidisciplinary approach to managing waste in low- and middle-income countries, with strategies that diminish greenhouse gas emissions and provide enterprise opportunities for marginalized populations. Topics are presented in real contexts through case studies, field visits, civic engagement and research, and include consumer culture, waste streams, waste management, entrepreneurship and innovation on waste, technology evaluation, downcycling / upcycling, Life Cycle Analysis and waste assessment.

2.627 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics
Fundamentals of photoelectric conversion: charge excitation, conduction, separation, and collection. Lectures cover commercial and emerging photovoltaic technologies and cross-cutting themes, including conversion efficiencies, loss mechanisms, characterization, manufacturing, systems, reliability, life-cycle analysis, risk analysis, and technology evolution in the context of markets, policies, society, and environment.

Environmental Governance

11.601 Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning
This course focuses on national environmental and energy policy-making; environmental ethics; the techniques of environmental analysis; and strategies for collaborative environmental decision-making. The primary objective is to help students formulate a personal theory of environmental planning practice. The course is taught comparatively, with constant references to examples from around the world. It is required of all graduate students pursuing an environmental policy and planning specialization in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

STS.032 Energy, Environment, and Society: Global Politics, Technologies, and Ecologies of the Water-Energy-Food Crises
With increasing public awareness of the multiple effects of global environmental change, the terms water, energy, and food crisis have become widely used in scientific and political debates on sustainable development and environmental policy. Although each of these crises has distinct drivers and consequences, providing sustainable supplies of water, energy, and food are deeply interrelated challenges and require a profound understanding of the political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors that have historically shaped these interrelations at a local and global scale.

Environmental Histories and Cultures

CMS.631 Data Storytelling Studio: Climate Change
This course explores visualization methodologies to conceive and represent systems and data, e.g., financial, media, economic, political, etc., with a particular focus on climate change data in this version of the course. Topics include basic methods for research, cleaning, and analysis of datasets, and creative methods of data presentation and storytelling. The course considers the emotional, aesthetic, ethical, and practical effects of different presentation methods as well as how to develop metrics for assessing impact.

21W.775 Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues
In this course, students read and write about works that explore symbolic encounters in the American landscape. Some of the assigned works look at uneasy encounters between ordinary individuals and animals—wolves, eagles, sandhill cranes—that Americans have invested with symbolic significance; others explore conflicts between the pragmatic American impulse to impose order on unruly nature and the equally American inclination to enshrine the unaltered landscape.

Featured Collection: Energy Courses

Photo looking upward at wind turbine, with Sun in the background.

Photo courtesy of Changhua Coast Conservation Action on Flickr.

Prosperity for a growing global population takes energy…lots of it. Indeed, scholars have linked the progress of modern civilization to a 10,000 year sequence of energy innovations.

But now with mounting risks from human-caused climate change and other environmental degradations, the world faces an urgent need to transform its energy systems. And this rapid shift must happen while giving billions more people around the world fair access to their share of energy-based prosperity.

Seeking to understand and transform the world’s energy systems, MIT researchers and students investigate all aspects of energy. They discover new ways of generating and storing energy, as in creating biofuels from plant waste and in holding electricity from renewable sources in cost-effective, high-capacity batteries. They create models and design experiments to determine how we can improve energy efficiency at all scales, from nanostructures and photovoltaic cells to large power plants and smart electrical grids. They analyze how people make decisions about energy, whether as individual consumers or whole nations, and they forecast what the social and environmental consequences of these decisions might be.

OCW’s Energy Courses list demonstrates how the study of energy is so important and so pervasive at MIT. It’s built on the MIT Energy Initiative’s undergraduate Energy Studies Minor, with a core of foundational subjects in energy science, technology, and social science, complemented by a program of electives which allow students to tailor their Energy Minor to particular interests. The OCW course list also includes some related courses which are not officially part of the Energy Minor program.

Explore the range and depth of OCW’s energy courses beginning with these four highlights.

Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies
This Energy Minor core subject, featuring a complete set of lecture videos, examines the choices and constraints regarding sources and uses of energy by households, firms, and governments.

 

D-Lab: Energy
This Energy Minor elective provides project-based learning about sustainable energy technology in developing countries, where compact, robust, low-cost solutions are required. The OCW version features many videos and student project presentations.

Nuclear Systems Design Project
This Energy Minor elective is a capstone project synthesis of practical problems of current interest in nuclear applications design.  This version’s students designed a nuclear power plant to provide emission-free electricity along with carbon sequestration.

Climate Action Hands-On: Harnessing Science with Communities to Cut Carbon
This non-credit seminar co-sponsored by MIT ClimateX features citizen science responses to the problem of leaking natural gas infrastructure, and helped develop a new leak measurement method now being trialed by MA utilities.