The purpose of my three-course Decoders series is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the microfabrication processes that embody "decoders." Students obtain proficiency in microfabrication techniques while understanding their impact in driving toward new technological developments. At the end of this course, the students identify a real-world problem, and then, working in our YellowBox cleanroom, microfabricate a device to address it. When completed, they demo this device to the world.
Given that device design and microfabrication is similar to cooking in the kitchen, I encourage all my students to create their own “recipes,” and thus not be dependent on a textbook or set curriculum. In fact, students compose their own textbook with the definitions of microfabrication terms using their own wording and imagination after learning these terms in the classroom. I believe having this flexibility allows all students to be more creative in blending their passion/style with their science without reservation. I also believe having no emphasis on grading (all my courses are pass/fail) encourages all to be less worried about being “evaluated” with a letter grade. To be honest, when I was a student, I never enjoyed being graded or having my studies framed by fixed textbooks. As a faculty member, I really wanted to create a course series that requires no grading, but rather encourages more personality and creative exploration. I am very happy to achieve one of my long-lasting dreams at the Media Lab—and especially pleased that my students have reacted so positively to this approach.
As an additional part of the learning process, all students get the opportunity, via Skype, to consult with leading experts in relevant fields of research throughout the world. This interaction gives them new insights while exposing them to a wide variety of current research topics.
My favorite part about this course—and the most intimate and memorable experience for me—is having the entire class submit an article forecasting the trends and needs of such biomedical devices, based on what they have learned from these experts, for submission to a scholarly peer-reviewed journal. In addition to the overall experience and skill set that this gives the students, having my name shared on a publication with all of my course students is very intimate and dear to me. Last year, all Decoders 1.0, students contributed to “Towards personalized medicine: the evolution of imperceptible healthcare technologies,” published in the November 2018 issue of Foresight, a journal of future studies, strategic thinking, and policy.
At first, writing this article with students from so many different disciplines proved challenging, but the result was so rewarding: this paper was recently selected by the journal’s editorial team as an Outstanding Paper for the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards.
In commenting on the article, Dr. Ozcan Saritas, the publication’s editor-in-chief, wrote: “Research undertaken by Dr. Canan Dagdeviren and her students is a true application of ‘foresight on site.’ They translate visions into reality for the future of humanity. Let’s listen to the future from the people who make it happen!”