The always stunning view from Mt Cardigan - pictured are Mts. Moose, Holt's Ledge, Winslow Ledge, and Smarts
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A landscape view of Dartmouth's campus from the courtyard of a dorm.

Sometimes I have the feeling that labs represent these unknown, mysterious spaces where it's hard to grasp what actually goes on. It's easy to walk through any science building on-campus and wonder about the seemingly endless research performed at all times of year. Naturally, I tend to stop and take a peek inside labs when I can, or at least read the many research posters lining the walls (the lengthy poster titles tend to be quite interesting).

I am, however, enrolled in a lab course this fall: Biology 19 (Cell Structure and Function). I've mentioned this course in my last posts about midterms (Go read that post if you haven't!), but I would like to go more in depth about my experience in the lab component of the class. Essentially, the lab aspect is a hands-on way to complement the content learned in class; my biology labs have covered a variety of experimental techniques used in cell biology, but the most recent lab covered microscopy! I'll use this particular lab as my example.

Each lab day is always on the same day, and follows the same hours. For my microscopy lab, I arrived at the Life Sciences Center in crisp fall weather at 2:30 on a Thursday. I made my way up the glass stairs to the third level, and entered the lab to don my assigned lab coat (labeled with my very own masking tape nametag). I like our lab space because it's airy and has a panoramic forest view—tons of natural light. 

Vertical shot of light microscope in laboratory.
Our light microscopes!

From there, the graduate students teaching our lab group explained how to work our microscopes. We learned about varying types of microscopy and prepared moss samples to get some close-up shots of vibrant plant cells. I appreciated the imaging process because of how artistic it really is—cells are beautiful and capturing them requires a combination of scientific insight and creativity.

Microscope image of fluorescent cells
Fluorescence microscopy!

My lab officially ended at 6:30, but leaving and staying times are flexible depending on how early you finish or if you have questions. After my lab partner and I filled a Google Drive with our very own gallery of microscopy images, we wrapped up our conversation and headed out for the day. One other great part about Lab is the group of friends you make by being so steeped in science!

I would like to end by adding that these are my first impressions as a first-year student just halfway done with fall term. Other labs across campus could look very different! Ultimately, Lab is what you make of it, and getting the opportunity to put your classroom knowledge in practice on a weekly basis is incredibly valuable. I'm very grateful to have such an opportunity, and look forward to getting more involved with labs in the future.

So stay tuned.

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