Media Discussion Assignment

Media Discussion Overview

The media discussions are your opportunity to research and discuss a topic related to biology that is of interest to you. Even if you’re not bound for Medical School or concentrating in bioengineering, there is sure to be something in the news that piques your interest. You will work with your lab team to select, research and lead a discussion of the article. You will distribute your article electronically to the class by 12 pm one day before (Thursday) your presentation.

You can reach the entire class by sending an email through Blackboard. Your group will be responsible for running the entire discussion (calling on students with their hands up, directing the conversation back to the main topic if it strays too far off, keeping the discussion flowing, etc.).

Some past topics include:

  • Is That a Pilot in Your Pocket? (using neurons to control the simulated flight of an airplane)
  • Fat Can Be a Stem Cell Source
  • Synthetic Life   Biologists are crafting libraries of interchangeable DNA parts and assembling them inside microbes to create programmable, living machines
  • Gene Doping       Gene therapy for restoring muscle lost to age or disease is poised to enter the clinic, but elite athletes are eyeing it to enhance performance Can it be long before gene doping changes the nature of sport?
  • Cancer without disease Do inhibitors of blood-vessel growth found naturally in our bodies defend most of us against progression of cancer to a lethal stage?
  • Kids’ best friends: Pets help prevent allergies
  • Bird flu discovered in Delaware chickens
  • Science closing in on ageing gene   Experts believe they are a little nearer to tracking down a gene that may influence how long you live.
  • Emergency bird flu meet in Rome
  • Picturing DNA:       DNA and Race
  • Hitting the Genetic OFF Switch (using RNA interference to inhibit protein expression)
  • The Ethics of Medical Marijuana
  • The Prophet of Immortality
  • The Race for the $1000 Genome
  • 24 Hour Living (use of Modafinil to enhance productivity)

Your group should prepare a brief overview of the article, and conduct some additional research for information to enrich the conversation. Your group should have a list of questions prepared to facilitate discussions. You can either send these out as “thought questions” when you email the article or just pose these questions during the discussion. You can use any classroom format you’d like (large group discussion, Think,Pair, Share, game playing, etc.) Plan to spend 20-30 minutes on the media discussion per class period.

The media discussion counts as 1 HW assignment, with all team members receiving the same grade.

Some of the things that you should consider when selecting and preparing the content.

  • Is the source reliable? Steer clear of random websites of organizations/people with an agenda.
  • Does the media source provide a satisfactory level of details? If a scientific study is described, do you have any idea how many patients were involved?
  • Is there any inherent bias in the article? For example, if you’ve found an article on a pharmaceutical company’s website, are the results presented as unbiased as they would be if you found the article on a government website? On the other hand, are all government websites unbiased?
  • Be aware of the difference between primary literature (the published results of a scientific study) and secondary literature (the magazine, newspaper or other report of research that was published in the primary literature). Was there even a scientific study involved in the topic that you’re discussing, or is it a bunch of speculation or theory?
  • Is the article going to be of interest to most of your classmates? Is there enough in the article to generate a stimulating discussion?
  • In addition to the scientific content, does the article raise interesting ethical, political, social or economic issues to discuss? Controversy is good.


Many resources are acceptable for the discussion article and your background research. Particularly good sources of articles are Scientific American, New York Times Science section, New Scientist, Time Magazine, Science or Nature magazines, Popular Science, The Scientist, Wired, NPR podcasts and TED talks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s