Arduino for Biologists: Building scientific instruments using Arduino





Director: John Assad

Instructors: Ofer Mazor, Pavel Gorelik, Brett Graham

Course description:

The Arduino is a powerful and inexpensive digital microcontrollers that can be used to develop custom lab instruments. Many tasks that used to require a PC or expensive hardware can be put together with an Arduino and tens of dollars worth of parts. Developing microcontroller-based tools allows researchers to automate and scale up aspects of their research that were previously unfeasible.

This nanocourse will cover the basics of programming an Arduino microcontroller and interfacing with sensors and actuators in order to build simple lab instruments.

During the video lectures, we will explain how a microcontroller works and cover basic topics in electronics and programming. Each student will be provided with a kit of parts and self-paced exercises to design, build, and debug small projects of their own.

After completing this nanocourse, students should feel comfortable using the Arduino and other electronic parts to build new instruments for their research.


This nanocourse is entirely remote. There is no on-campus component.



Enrollment is limited to 20 grad students and postdocs. No auditing.

Preference will be given to members of the Department of Neurobiology.



Some basic programming experience (e.g., for-loops, if-statements) is required.


Summer 2020 class schedule and expectations:

This remote nanocourse consists of three lessons spaced one week apart. Each lesson includes a video lecture, a short Zoom class run by the instructors, and an engineering assignment. Class dates and times are:

Mon. June 8 (3–3:30pm):  Intro to the Arduino

Mon. June 15 (3–3:30pm):  Basic electronics, sensors and actuators

Mon. June 22 (3–3:30pm):  Programming the Arduino

Students are expected watch the assigned ~45 minute lecture before each class session begins. Students will be provided with parts and guidance to work on their assignments in the days following each class. Expect to spend 60–90 minutes on each weekly assignment.


Register for the class here.