Let’s Experiment: A Guide for Scientists Working at the Bench


Fri - Tue, Feb 22 to Feb 26, 9:00am - 11:00pm



Note: This course runs from February 19th until April 2nd, with weekly sessions. We recommend that you get started during the first week to not fall behind!


Before you step into the lab to do an experiment, you have a long list of questions: How do I design an experiment that will give a clear answer to my question? What model system should I use? What are my controls? What’s an ideal sample size? How can I tell if the experiment worked?

It is overwhelming and easy to feel lost, especially with no guide in sight.

This FREE 6-week course tackles the above questions head-on. Scientists from a variety of backgrounds give concrete steps and advice to help you build a framework for how to design experiments in biological research. We use case studies to make the abstract more tangible. In science, there is often no simple right answer. However, with this course, you can develop a general approach to experimental design and understand what you are getting into before you begin. ( If you are interested in using content from this course for your own trainees, please click here for more information. )

We will guide you through the steps of planning a well-designed experiment, so by the end of this course, you will have:

  • A detailed plan for your experiment(s) that you can discuss with a mentor.
  • A flowchart for how to prioritize experiments.
  • Tips and best practices for how to get started with an experiment.
  • A lab notebook template that is so impressively organized, it will make your colleagues envious.
  • A framework to do rigorous, reproducible research.

For students and practitioners of experimental biology

We designed this course for graduate students participating in experimental biological research. Advanced undergraduate students may also find this course very helpful, as well as postdocs and staff scientists looking for guidance on these topics.

Includes 5 comprehensive modules and 1 experimental plan

  • Module 1 - AN INTRODUCTION TO EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: So you have an experiment in mind? This module shows you how to get started.
  • Module 2 - KEY ELEMENTS OF EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: How to think carefully through key features of an experiment, such as variables, controls, sample size, and replication.
  • Module 3 - ACCOUNT FOR YOUR OWN BIAS: How to identify your own bias as an experimenter and safeguard your experiment from that bias through rigor and transparency.
  • Module 4 - GEAR UP TO DO THE EXPERIMENT: Some tips and best practices on how to familiarize yourself with a protocol, validate key reagents, and keep a good lab notebook.
  • Module 5 - GETTING THE EXPERIMENT TO WORK: Some tips and best practices on how to pilot, troubleshoot, and optimize an experiment.
  • MY EXPERIMENTAL PLAN: As you work through the course, you will be prompted to apply what you’re learning to your own research. Responses to these exercises will be captured in the downloadable document called “My Experimental Plan.” It is organized in a way so that relevant sections may be integrated into your lab notebook.