The second aspect of this course was the group project. The aim of this project was to get hands on experience in various techniques that we learned during the course and to experience life of a researcher. The project was performed in groups of 6 students. Each group was assigned a technique based on which the experiment had to be designed and each member of the group was assigned a specific role. The technique assigned to the group and individual role was mostly based on a poll conducted earlier. The techniques covered were, CRISPR, FACS, Immunofluorescence based microscopy, and qPCR.
For example, my group was assigned the FACS technique and we had a communicator, a coordinator, technical experts, scientific responsible and a data analyst.
As a group we had to design a simple research question that could be answered using FACS. Once we had the question, we made a list of materials required. We were given a strict budget of 10000kr. The challenge was to stick to the budget and still be able to have a realistic research question that can be answered. Fortunately, to guide us we were assigned mentors who are experts in that particular technique.
The first pitch of our research proposal was just before the Christmas holidays to our faculty. After approval of the proposal, list of required materials was ordered so that it would arrive by the time university reopens after the holidays.
We had four days to perform our experiments and a day to analyze data and prepare for the final presentation.
On the first day, after making a detailed plan of the experimental timeline and collecting our order we started with our experiments.
Finally on the day of presentation, each group presented their research project and various difficulties that they had faced. As this was the first independent venture into designing a project for most of us, everything did not turned out as we speculated.
However, this experience taught us about various practical difficulties and limitations that can be learned only by experience. For example, estimating experimental efficiency in the lower range, etc. Further, we learned to handle situations, work in teams, come up with last minute alternative plans or design fall back plans. And last but not the least to troubleshoot our experiment.
At the end of all the presentations we had a final feedback session with faculties from every subject at Karolinska Institute. We discussed and gave suggestion on how the courses can be improved and what part of the course were specifically helpful. As this is relatively new course, the administration and the faculties are very enthusiastic and take feedback on improving the course structure and content based on the student feedback very seriously, so that the new batch of students can get the best with relative ease.