How being off campus has affected students’ lab time

By Emma Russell

Student Life Editor

Labs look a little different this year due to COVID-19 shifting school online. While some labs can easily adjust to a virtual format, others have had more trouble.

Junior Katherine Desrosiers has three different classes that require labs this semester: Biopsychology with Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Dan Kochli, Stats & Research Design II with Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Cindy Gibson, and Chemical Principles of Organic Molecules with Clarence C. White Associate Professor of Chemistry, Department Co-Chair Dr. Amick, and Lecturer in Chemistry Betsy Moyer-Taylor as the lab professor.

“The psychology labs are kind of different because you don’t have to like dissect anything or do experiments. You kind of just like try things that demonstrate psychological concepts that we’re learning about,” Desrosiers said. “So psych labs are already kind of like against the norm already, so it’s easy to adapt those to online learning but it’s not that easy to adapt chemistry online.”

Desrosiers said for her chemistry labs they often watch a “video of a procedure that reflects what we’re learning about, so that we can do the procedure ourselves if we want to.” 

Her class also has the option of watching a video of their professor doing the experiment. 

“We have to like, take measurements of how much things weigh or like the volume, and then we use those to answer post lab questions,” she said. “It’s difficult to do these labs by myself.”

Desrosiers does have a lab partner she can rely on for her chemistry lab and takes advantage of her professor’s online office hours.

Junior Kennett Vail-Rojas is taking Electronics with lab, to fulfill his Physics lab requirement, with Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. George Keiser. 

“Basically, it’s learning about the electrical side of physics, like learning about circuits and breakers, and for the lab it’s mainly just looking at experimental data,” Vail-Rojas said about his class.

Vail-Rojas said labs are typically asynchronous, and more often than not they use simulators to mimic how the labs would be if they were in person. 

Using a virtual simulation Vail-Rojas was able to put “together a circuit and notice how resistors affected the voltage that goes through the circuit.”

Vail-Rojas said that the virtual format “sucks but I’m just trying to make the best of it.”

Senior Will Reid is taking Applied Ecology with Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Studies Dr. Jill Bible and Field Methods in Environmental Science with Associate Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Rebecca Fox.

Reid’s Applied Ecology lab is asynchronous.

“It’s Ecology so you’re looking for relationships between the environment and the world around us,” he said.

“For Field methods most are asynchronous, because it’s exhausting sitting in front of computer for 3 hours and I think she [Dr. Fox] knows that,” Reid said. “The asynchronous labs are more about developing as a field scientist which is different than being in the classroom.”

Reid said he was grateful for his labs giving him the opportunity to get outside and explore the environment around him. 

Freshman Joshua Torrance is currently taking General Biology taught by Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jennifer Wanat with the lab run by Dr. Madeline Bilinksi. 

A majority of Torrance’s labs are asynchronous and “are due between 3 days or a week after the lab itself was assigned.” 

So far two of the labs have been online simulations, but he said that the rest of the labs have required materials to physically do at home.

One of these labs was the “cabbage lab,” Torrance’s favorite lab.

“We boiled slices of red cabbage leaves to extract the pigment from them and make a pH indicator. I had a great time doing it and seeing the dye change colors when acids and bases were added to it,” he said.

While Torrance said that the labs make things more interesting, “there’s no feeling like peeling a potato in your bedroom and having that moment of clarity where you ask yourself ‘wow, what is my life right now.’ Doing the labs at home, for me, makes me wish I were on campus even more than I already do, mainly because I’m missing out on a laboratory environment.”

Torrance, who is planning on pursuing a psychology major, is hopeful that in the future he’ll be able to complete some labs on campus.

Featured Photo caption: The Toll Science Center is looking emptier these days with students off campus unable to complete labs in person. Photo by Izze Rios.

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