Monday, April 19, 2010


This semester, I've been mentoring a team of two freshmen working on designing a cooperative system of biofuel-producing algae and nutrient-recycling bacteria. It's a really neat project -- in fact all three of this year's 20.20 projects are really interesting. They have more of a focus on system dynamics / population engineering, where my year we focused on devices. I think this may be due to having Ron Weiss instead of Drew Endy. (Another indication of Weissitude is that we're all modeling our systems in MATLAB... sigh. I am not fond of MATLAB.)

I don't actually know much about biofuels, synthetic cooperation, or complex metabolism. I also don't know much about mentoring a team in the sort of hands-on, hands-off style that's appropriate when the point is for everyone to learn and stretch themselves. So it's a challenge, but an extremely satisfying one. I have watched my team drink the synthetic biology Kool-aid in the most remarkable way. There was a palpable transition from naivete to relative understanding;

Mentorship is important, but providing it at this level is also exhausting. Every day after class I feel physically tired (actually, that may have more to do with my sleep schedule than my mentoring schedule).

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