Immunology Lab Policies
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Attendence is required. It is not feasable to make up missed laboratory work because of the complexity and cost, and because many classes involve work on materials prepared in previous classes. Unexcused tardiness or absences will reduce your grade. If you know in advance that you must miss a class, please hand your instructor a written note with the details and if possible also discuss it with the instructor. If you miss a class unexpectedly, it is your responsibility to provide a written explanation to an instructor, and discuss it with her or him.

Laboratory notebook. Your laboratory notebook can be permanently bound or 3-hole loose-leaf. Loose-leaf is recommended because it will help to be able to rearrange the pages. Keep it neat and well organized. Index tabs are recommended. In the front, keep a running summary with the yields and bottom-line numeric results of quantitative work. You will need this summary repeatedly because many procedures require that you know the results of previous work. Your notebook will be inspected throughout the semester and these inspections will be taken into account in your notebook grade. At the end of the semester, you will hand your notebook in and it will be graded for neatness, legibility, organization, completeness, and the quality of your running summary.

If some of your original notes are messy, water-spotted, or hastily-written, it is important to keep them in the notebook. Discarding original notes in favor of rewritten ones opens the possibility of data loss or introducing inadvertant errors while copying -- the original notes must always be kept for reference (and for patent purposes). They will not detract from your grade as long as the important results are neatly rewritten or summarized. After grading, you may have your notebook back.

Labeling samples. Often it is necessary to store samples from your work for extended periods between classes. Your samples will be stored with dozens of others under damp refrigerator conditions, handled repeatedly by various people. Label your samples unambiguously with the contents, your name and the date. Use tape which will not fall off and write with an permanent marker which will not smudge or rub off.

Keeping leftovers. Do not discard anything until instructed to do so -- then make sure you understand clearly what to discard before doing so. Often leftover materials or fractions are needed for use in later work.

Come prepared. Prior to each class meeting, read the relevent sections of the lab manual. Write a short outline (not more than one page) of the goals and procedures for the class meeting. At the beginning of each class, a TA will check this. Failure to be well prepared will affect your participation score adversely.

Guide to Writing Assignments (FC Plan and Lab Reports)

All written assignments must be handed in printed on paper, and also electronically (on diskette, or email the Word .doc file to

  1. Individual work is required. Each student must write her/his assignments independently. Often you and your lab partner will be basing your report on a common set of data. Prior to writing your report, discussion of the data and interpretation with your classmates and instructors is encouraged.

    However, once you begin writing you should do this separately and independently so it is your own work. (See the the definition and examples of plagiarism in UMass Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities. Grad students see the Graduate Student Handbook , but see also the examples of plagiarism linked above.)

  2. Presentation will count for 10% of the score of each report. "Presentation" means the appearance of your report, regardless of its content. Good presentation means a professional appearance which inspires confidence that the work was taken seriously and done carefully.

    Provide a cover page which unambiguously identifies the document (title, name, date due, course). Neatness is important. The paper should not be torn nor have ragged edges, and should be stapled together. Computer printout is required unless you have obtained special permission in advance. Leave spaces around subtitles and between paragraphs. Double-space computer printout and use a 12-point font size. Number the pages. Citations, if any, should be complete including titles.

    "Presentation" will weigh much more heavily than 10% when your future employers judge your resume or reports. If I am asked to recommend you for employment, my evaluation will be based in part on your presentation and participation.

  3. Content. The goal of a lab report is to provide a complete and accurate account of the work, and to communicate it effectively.
    1. Present your work in a logical, well-organized sequence.
    2. Use subtitles when changing major topics, and divide the text into paragraphs. Each paragraph must have a single, clear major point.
    3. Be as brief as possible. Don't repeat things unnecessarily. Decide where each point belongs and say it clearly once.
    4. Graphs or figures must be completely and clearly labeled, and explained.
    5. All numeric results must be interpreted in the text.
    6. All numeric values must have units/dimensions.
    7. Give only significant digits and use scientific notation when appropriate.
    8. Proofread carefully, making a separate scan to pay attention to each of the above requirements, as well as for
      1. Spelling. (Use a spell-checker if using a computer!)
      2. Grammar.
      3. Punctuation including hypenation.
  4. Organization. All biological science journals that report original data use this standard set of subsections. Pick up any scientific journal and you'll see this organization in use.
      Materials and Methods
      Literature Citations
    Unless otherwise instructed (e.g. the FC Plan), use this organization. Each section is described below as it applies to your lab reports.

    Abstract (one paragraph, typically 5-7 sentences). The abstract gives a brief overview of what was done, the results, and interpretation or conclusions. The "bottom line" should be stated quantitatively, for example yields, success, or failure. Keep the abstract short!

    Introduction (not more than one page). Summarize necessary background information very briefly, such as the main points one needs to know about immunology in order to understand this report. State the purposes or goals and why the particular methods used were selected.

    Materials & Methods (a page or so). These are detailed in your lab manual, and it is not necessary to repeat everything there. You should however give a very brief overview of the methods, and describe any materials or procedures not explicit in the lab manual, in sufficient detail that someone else could repeat your work using the lab manual plus your lab report. It is also very important to specify any deviations or irregularities, or inadvertant occurrences that may have affected the results.

    Results (as long as needed). Summarize complete quantitative results, including amounts of starting materials, yields, etc. Results are statements of factual observations, and do not include interpretations or discussion. The purpose of separating "Results" from "Discussion" is to make it clear both to yourself and your readers what is objective observation (which someone else should be able to repeat) and what is subjective interpretation (which someone else may or may not agree with).

    Use lists or tables when they make the results easier to follow. Pay attention to keeping quantitative track of where your starting material ended up and how much was recovered, a "balance sheet". This is often most clearly presented as a flow chart.

    Discussion (one or two pages). Your interpretation of your results. Your best guess an an explanation for anything that went wrong. Your estimation of how well you think you succeeded. Comparisons with other people's results or expected results.

Feedback to Eric Martz.