All About Lab Classes
The Dartmouth term is already packed with classes and work, but what happens when you add a lab requirement? Labs are a component of most STEM classes as well as a few non-science ones that require a field or interactive component for full understanding of the material. For example, I've had the traditional chemistry laboratory with titrations and fume hoods, but I have friends who have taken Anthropology classes that take field trips to different dig sites or historic locations. Regardless of how the labs are implemented in these classes, they still consume time in a busy Dartmouth schedule. For this particular blog, I compiled opinions from a few other Dartmouth students who have taken laboratory classes here at Dartmouth!
My personal experience with laboratories has been majorly positive. I absolutely love being able to immerse myself in the material I am learning in class. Being a hands-on person, I feel like I'm quite literally getting a grasp on the topics I'm lectured on weekly. Labs are set up differently for each subject, but for my past two chemistry classes the lab includes three parts: the pre-lab, the actual lab, and the post lab. The pre-lab includes writing the materials and procedure within a lab notebook as well as answering a few problems related to the material. These really allow me to throw myself into confusing topics and adopt a "figure it out as I go" attitude. At the end of each pre-lab, I feel like I've grappled enough with the topic of the week to successfully carry out the lab. During the lab itself, the procedure I carry out can take anywhere from one to four hours. For the chemistry department, labs are allotted four hours of time but can be finished earlier depending on efficiency and the amount of content that week. In the post-lab, students are required to do data analysis and review all that they've done that week.
Thus far, my favorite lab has been the synthesis of a cobalt complex. This lab required a lot of precipitate measurement and temperature change, both of which I found to be interesting procedures to carry out. One of my fellow lab goers I talked to, Devin, mentioned that her experience in her "BIOL 19: Honors Cell Structure and Function" laboratory inspired her to look for even further research opportunities. She mentioned that she loved learning about all the interesting topics biology has to offer and seeing the results of her own work. Enjoying her time in the lab weekly, she realized she'd love to do more of this type of work elsewhere and applied to Women in Science Program (WISP)! A classmate of her's, Evan, mentioned that his favorite part of his biology lab was working with microscopes. When asked about what he liked about the biology lab, he began a long anecdote about how he'd hog the microscope during lab sessions because he found it so fun to use.
In a less traditional lab, my friend Auden took an earth sciences class in the fall and found his experience to be incredibly fun. During his allotted lab hours, his class would take a bus to go on field trips off campus. His favorite trip out of all of them was when they went to a rock site in Vermont!
For me personally, the only con of laboratories is how much time they take, but they ultimately provide a lot to the entire learning experience at Dartmouth.
As a STEM student, I'll be taking a lab, or even two, every term for the foreseeable future. I'm incredibly excited for all that I will learn through these interactive learning sessions.