The BMRC engages in multiple types of training. The most important and most common type is ad-hoc training. We work one-on-one with individual users of the facilities to teach them how to design, fabricate, assemble, and use microfluidic devices for their research. In addition, we run seminars to teach groups of people about microfluidics, and we teach classes at the college level at both MIT and Olin College.
Ad-hoc training is targeted to a particular research goal and is tailored to specific device microfabrication and/or user challenges. The ad-hoc training starts with filling out the application form and submitting to BMRC for review.
Once training is approved, BMRC decides on a schedule for training or recommends the attendance of the BMRC workshop. New users are highly encouraged to study protocols (available on the website) prior to training. Training is supervised and coordinated by senior instructors.
Experienced, senior postdoctoral fellows are recruited for the training on specialized procedures. General training and overview of safety and proper behavior in the clean room are usually provided by our clean room technicians. An informal exam at the end of the training period tests that the trainee is able to perform correctly all the target procedures. Hands-on training is part of a structured teaching program e.g. within the workshop, and is limited to a small set of procedures and applications.
Our flagship workshop was developed at BMRC as an intensive one-day short course designed to introduce the attendees to the essentials of microtechnology as applied to biology and medicine. The main goal for the workshop is to provide NIH investigators active in biomedical research with the minimal set of practical skills and background knowledge that would allow them to become users of microfluidic technologies. The workshop is entitled An Introduction to Microtechnology and Microfluidics for Biology and Medicine and includes six lectures and four hands-on laboratory modules. The workshop is available for a maximum of 20 students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. The course is usually taught at the BMRC in July (usually in the days before the Methods in Bioengineering Symposium, also run by BMRC). For the hands-on laboratory modules the students are divided into four groups of 5 and the four modules are run in parallel. The small group size assures that all students have equal chance to learn and perform experiments. Brief lectures interspersed with the lab modules present general information about the microfluidic technology and relevant background information for each of the experiments. These also provide a chance for the students to ask more questions and for the faculty to address issues raised during the lectures. Recently, we expanded the workshop in conjunction with the Tissue Engineering Resource Center (TERC) at Tufts University in the Biomedical Engineering / Sciences and Technology Center. A two-day microfluidic module (June 28 - June 29) covered basic and advanced topics, and provided hands-on experience to students, as part of a week long workshop.
We have developed two laboratory courses and one laboratory module for an existing course that provide hands-on training to students and users. One course is being offered at the Olin College of Engineeringand the others are officially offered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under the auspices of the Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. One project-based course was offered to undergraduate students at MIT. The course, Projects in Microscale Engineering for the Life Sciences (6.07/HST 410J), is an introduction to manipulating and characterizing cells and biological molecules using microfabricated tools. It is designed for first year undergraduate students, to introduce them to engineering principles and design in the context of hands-on labs and projects. In the first half of the term, students perform laboratory exercises designed to introduce (1) the design, manufacture, and use of microfluidic channels, (2) techniques for sorting and manipulating cells and biomolecules, and (3) making quantitative measurements using optical detection and fluorescent labeling. In the second half of the term, students work in small groups to design and test a microfluidic device to solve a real-world problem of their choosing. Syllabus and other material can be found at http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Health-Sciences-and-Technology/HST-410JSpring-2007/CourseHome/index.htm.
Microfluidic modules have been incorporated as integral lab components of the course Quantitative Physiology: Cells and Tissues (6.021J/2.791J/20.370J/HST.541J). One module was designed to allow quantitative studies of diffusion. Two fluids, one containing a dye, meet at a junction and flow side-by-side in a microchannel. By measuring the flow rate and the change in transmittivity across the width of the channel at various locations, the diffusion constant of the dye can be determined. Another module trapped cells in a microchannel and allowed the perfusion of various solutes to enable studies of transport, osmosis, and homeostasis. A third module introduced bacteria into a microchannel for studies of chemotaxis. BMRC personnel assisted with developing both the devices themselves and the software used to capture images and make quantitative measurements from them.
One undergraduate course, Special Topics in Bioengineering: Microfluidics and Applications was offered during the Fall semester in 2010 and 2012 at the Olin College of Engineering (ENGR 2699) and supported jointly by the BMRC and Olin College. The main objective of the project-driven course was to introduce students to the principles of microscale engineering and design. The courses were attended by 11 undergraduate students each year and were structured around 3-4 distinct projects. In 2010 these projects targeted applications in the area of particle and cell separation; in 2012 the focus was on projects in the area of cell migration. Teaching and hands on sessions were adapted to fit the specific requirements of the projects. The course included lectures and extensive lab components in (1) cellular micropatterning techniques for tissue engineering and cell culture, (2) chemotaxis of neutrophils using microgradient generators, and (3) imaging techniques for gene expression in cell arrays using reporter genes. The course is especially beneficial to engineers without significant background in biological sciences. The course was taught by BMRC personnel together with Prof. Brian Storey from Olin College. One important challenge that was addressed during the course was the setup of the technical infrastructure for device fabrication including ovens for PDMS curing, oxygen-plasma machine for PDMS bonding, and a spinner for making thin layers of PDMS. Students also benefited from a one day trip to our BMRC facility, where they entered the clean-room and could observe the fabrication of one wafer for their course.