Let's Experiment : A Guide for Scientists Working at the Bench
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Course Overview

In this free course, 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.

Course Features

  • Tips and strategies for successful experimental design
  • Strategies to avoid bias
  • Insights to improve reproducibility
  • How to keep a good laboratory notebook
  • An experiment plan that you can implement immediately
  • Handouts, info-graphs & reading materials

Course Details

Enrollment Starts Enrollment is open
Course Starts Anytime, self-paced
Estimated Effort 03:00 hours/week
Certificate Yes
Badge Yes

About This Course

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 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 notebookMY 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.

Built with your schedule in mind

We know you have lots of things to do, so you can take this course as quickly or as slowly as works for you. There are 5 modules in the course and each take about 1.5 to 3 hours of work. There are an average of 7 videos per module; each video is 2 to 6 minutes in length.

This is not a statistics course

We introduce you to some basic statistics concepts that are relevant to the experimental design concepts we teach. However, we don’t dive deeper than that. If you want to learn more, we provide you with some links to outside resources to help get you started.

Without further ado, let’s experiment!


There are no requirements necessary to take this class.

How To Do Good Science

"Let’s Experiment" is the second course in the “How to Do Good Science” series from iBiology Courses. If you haven’t yet, we recommend that you take the first course in this series, called "Planning Your Scientific Journey." It teaches you how to ask scientific questions and build a research plan. "Planning Your Scientific Journey" is self-paced and can be taken any time (before, during, or after the running of this course).

Course Format & Certification

Let's Experiment is an on-demand, self-paced course. This means that, as soon as you enroll, all course content is available to you and may be consumed at your own pace. For your reference, it took students 6 weeks to complete the whole course in a hosted, synchronized format. They spent on average 1.5-3 hours on the course per week. This includes time spent watching videos, reading text, doing assessments, and engaging in the forum. You will receive an iBiology Courses Certificate of Completion if you pass the course. Passing requires that you complete 50% or more of the learning exercises.

Course Speakers

Speakers for 'Let's Experiment' Course.

We've interviewed leaders in the scientific community about doing good science, and we present those interviews to you in this course. Speakers include:

  1. Prachee Avasthi
  2. Needhi Bhalla
  3. Daniel Colón-Ramos
  4. Doug Koshland
  5. Katie Pollard
  6. Neil Robbins II
  7. Ana Ruiz Saenz
  8. Paul Turner
  9. Ron Vale

Course Directors

  • Shannon Behrman
  • Alexandra Schnoes

Course Staff

  • Daniel McQuillen
  • Noah Green
  • Nina Griffin
  • Shannon Loelius

Graphics and Editing

  • Chris George
  • Maggie Hubbard
  • Kolmel Love
  • Alexis Keenan

Video Production

  • Derek Reich (Zooprax Productions)
  • Eric Kornblum (iBiology)

Course Advisory Team

  • Sarah Goodwin
  • Elliot Kirschner
  • Ron Vale

Beta Testing

Special thanks to those who volunteered their time to review the beta version of this course: Adriana Bankston, Leah Bury, Kara Cerveny, Angela DePace, Irene Gallego-Romero, Brooke Gardner, Samantha Hindle, Doug Koshland, Gary McDowell, Steve Mennerick, and Kassandra Ori-McKinney. You all gave such great feedback!


Mónica Feliú-Mójer, Rosa Veguilla, Karen Dell, David Quigley, Jóse Dinneny


This work is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number R25GM116704.


I loved this course so much. Thank you for the opportunity to learn from so many wise scientists in a fun, easy to use, yet challenging and stimulating way.

- Graduate student

I usually do not like online courses, but I found myself very engaged in these lessons and really enjoyed watching the videos. Great professionals were chosen for this!

- Graduate student

I wish I had this course as a beginning graduate student. I will definitely use all concepts in training my students in the future.

- Postdoc

It has given me a sense of control over what I am getting into (I am starting grad school this fall as a PhD student)...I feel more confident about grad school now because of this course.

- Undergraduate student

Great course!! Seriously this has vastly better prepared me for a career in academia than any other single course I've taken.

- Graduate student

Educator Resources

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Help for Educators

Are you an educator? View our resource guide for easy to access and use the course’s videos, video transcripts, infographics, term sheet, assessments, and discussion questions.

View Guide >>
Sign Up Sign In
To enroll in this class, you first need to sign up to iBiology Courses as a student (or sign in if you're already a student).