DM-GY 9103 - K SPECIAL TOPICS IN DIGITAL MEDIA:Micro-Environment Exploration Lab

Integrated Digital Media • Technology, Culture & Society Department

Spring 2018


Elizabeth Hénaff [email protected],

Chris Woebken [email protected],

Fridays 12:30pm-3:20pm | MAGNET 811 | 3 credit hours

Office hours:

Elizabeth Hénaff: Wednesdays 1pm-3pm or by appointment | MAGNET 874

Chris Woebken: by appointment | at NYU Friday's or coffee shop other days

Slack Channel:


Metagenomics is the field of research which investigates the microbial component of our environment. It is a rapidly growing field, enabled by the recent decrease in cost and increase in throughput of DNA sequencing technology. We can now easily measure the microbial component of our environment and have the opportunity to incorporate this new microbial metric into the design of our built environments and products.

In this class we will cover a basic understanding of the state of current research in environmental microbiomes. Students will get hands-on experience in which they will learn the computational methods to analyze genomic data. We will design physical devices to interact with this invisible component of our environment, either in form of sampling instruments, bioreactors or bio receptive substrates that propose new symbiotic relationships with the microbial environment.

Students will work in groups, and one group will have the opportunity to present their work at the Biodesign Challenge in June 2018.

By the completion of this course, students will be able to:

• Understand of the state of current research in environmental microbiomes

• Hands on experience with computational methods for DNA sequence analysis and visualization

• Introduce speculative thinking as well as rigorous experimental design to their practice

• Materialize concepts with new strategies for rapid product prototyping

• Develop critical thinking skills to assess the scientific feasibility, human impact, sustainability and risk of their biotechnological interventions


For successful completion of the class, the students will deliver:

  • Individual work:

    • A research paper, 2-5 pages long, on a biological system or entity of their choice. This paper should cover 3-5 scientific publications on the topic, with appropriate citations.
  • Group work:

    • An iterated prototype of an object, app or other interface that defines a novel interaction with the environmental microbiome

    • A website documenting the process of creation of aforementioned project

    • A short video pitching the aforementioned project.


We will be building objects. Expect to spend $100 in physical fabrication and prototyping materials.

We will work with free and publicly available DNA sequence datasets and students will have the opportunity to design their own experiments if called for by their project.


Every student is expected to participate in critiques and class discussions. Critiques are essential to the design process inside and outside of this class. You are expected to apply critical thinking, ask questions, and formulate and explain your opinion. The more active the discussions we have the more rewarding and ultimately fun the class will be.


The assignments in this class will include a research paper and a multiple week deliverable focused project. All work assigned in this class will have the potential to be portfolio work. Student's overall grades will be a mixture of weekly progress presentations (20%), research project (40% -- 10%-outline; 10%-draft; 20%-paper), group project (30%) and participation (10%).


  • Attendance is mandatory during project critiques, individual status meetings, and every student’s end of semester public presentations. If you miss an individual status meeting, it is your responsibility to exchange a time with a fellow classmate, or contact the instructor to reschedule.
  • Unexcused absences will affect your grade. One absence is allowed; after that, your final, overall, numerical grade will drop by 5 percent (1/2 a grade point (e.g. A to an A-)) for each additional absence.
  • Tardiness will affect your grade. For every 15 minutes of tardiness, your final, numerical grade will drop by 0.5 percent.
  • Contact the professor at least 24h in advance by email if you will not be in class.
  • Absence to observe religious holidays will not be penalized, and the students should give prior notice as described above.


Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent. Late assignments, failure to complete the assignments for class discussion and/or critique, and lack of preparedness for in-class discussions, presentations and/or critiques will jeopardize your successful completion of this course. Late assignments will be penalized 0.5% of final grade for each day late.


Class participation is an essential part of class and includes:

  • asking a question in class
  • answering another students' question in class
  • answering an instructor's question in class
  • initiating or participating in a discussion in class
  • emailing a question to the instructors so that it may be covered the next class meeting

To fulfill the Participation requirement (10% of final grade) students must participate at least once for each class session.

For participation to be meaningful, it is important to keep up with reading, assignments, project development, and actively participate in group work, as well as come to class regularly and on time.

Electronic Devices

Use of electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops) is permitted when the device is being used in relation to the course's work. All other uses are prohibited in the classroom and devices should be turned off before class starts.


Please review NYU's School of Engineering's academic dishonesty policy in its entirety.

All work for this class must be your own and specific to this semester. Any work recycled from other classes or from another, non-original source will be rejected with serious implications for the student. Plagiarism, knowingly representing the words, media, or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise, is absolutely unacceptable. Any student who commits plagiarism must re-do the assignment for a grade no higher than a D. D is also the highest possible course grade for any student who commits plagiarism. Please use the MLA or Chicago Manual of Style for citing and documenting source material.

You MUST have complete rights of use to any and all materials which appear in your thesis project. This includes images, illustrations, audio etc. The source of any materials NOT created by you MUST be properly cited. Please remember that you can collaborate with other students to create your own media or contact the authors of your media selections for rights. I strongly encourage you to use original media for your thesis project, however should you absolutely require to use stock images, video, etc., you will need to provide a PDF of all source files and the usage rights you have purchased/negotiated or whether it is creative commons or copyright free.

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