There are people who believe in self-study, and there are people who believe in lecture type classes. I, however, am totally different, as I believe in learning from hieroglyphics. Am kidding! Cave paintings are hard to understand. Anyhow, last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend this extraordinarily amazing Biol 413 class at Penn State, which is so unlike those other lecture type-boring-to-hell type classes where the only natural reaction that brain elicits is to shut itself down. The class is an amalgam of concepts of cell biology in a format that is a mix between Survivors and Project Runway. Intriguing, Right??
The class has been divided into 6 different tribes; Regulators, Alhazen, Nerds, Green Fluorescent Squirrels (funny name if you imagine the picture of one), Mutants and Killer Ladybugs (my favorite tribe name. Its outrageously hilarious!). In each class, tribes are given a task, which is mostly grounded in science of cell and molecular biology, and the tribe that wins gets immunity against a vote-out to the mutant island. Yes, there is vote out at the end of each task and besides all the fun in class, final scores that are earned from this task will lead to bonus grade points at the end of semester. Besides this there are bonus safety cards, extra immunity points for taking pictures of Immunity Idol in different locales in State College, …and lot of strategy strategy strategy!!
Last Friday, I was the guest judge for this class and had an amazing fun filled experience. The task that day was called ‘Project Runway-Biol 413 Evening Gown Challenge” and task involved reading a scientific paper titled, “The Coupling of Cyclic GMP and Photopolarization of Pelvetia Zygotes” and tribes were asked to come up with a descriptive model and some future experiments to test ideas they proposed. I would have preferred a scientific paper title like ‘The coupling of Mars landing and Evolution of Skunks’ (kidding!!), but on a slightly serious note, I have never seen students more excited in class! NEVER EVER! All the tribes came up with such amazing ideas and I would be lying if I say that I was not surprised. But after all the judges had tallied their scores, The Regulators were a unanimous winner as they had presented a very comprehensive model, with Mutants being a close second for their well controlled proposed experiments. As I had promised, the winner gets a cover on the The Antisense Strand, here it is the winning model and winner teams logo. (Yeah I can see the sarcasm when you say, “Yeah what a prize! Cover on some random humor blog that hardly anybody reads!)
With a pea-sized brain like me, I know, I should be the last one to express my opinion on such things but I believe science can be so much fun. I can however say for sure that classes like these definitely make studying science a fun and intellectually enriching exercise. Thanks to Randen and Damian for implementing such an idea and inviting me to be a part of it, and I so much wish that I was a part of such a class when I was an undergrad. I would have named my tribe Prot Surfers, T4 Terminators, or The Wingdings. Then we would have won the first task and tried to get the best person out of mutants in our…. Strategy Strategy!! Think Think!!