Background Story: Over the weekend a friend of mine hosted a bonfire and my group of friends were sitting around the fire pit and discussing our first year of college. We are all engineering or pre-med majors. I was lamenting about the lack of independent lab experience I haven’t been able to get through college. My friend, M, who will be assisting researchers at OSU in a biology lab this fall pipes into the discussion. “E, if opportunities don’t happen at first, you must make them happen. My first semester at OSU and I talked my profs up with ideas for lab experiments based on what I had read for my major. One prof happened to ask if I wanted to assist him with his graduate level research idea based upon what I had mentioned. I happened to be at the wrong place (classroom) at the right time, and was able to talk to professors and receive the Fall 2014 lab opportunity. It takes patience but you can get lab experience without taking lab classes, just talk to professors around you.”
I of course didn’t believe M. That stuff only happens to a few select lucky students in college, I’m not gifted with good luck.
This summer I am currently taking two classes at the university in my town. One of the classes I am taking is a chemistry class, and it’s going well so far. Today, I approached my chemistry professor after class and inquired about hands on learning (it’s a lecture only class). It never hurts to ask. I expected the answer to be, “The summer semester chemistry class doesn’t do hands on labs with experiments, as stated in the syllabus.” But my professor’s response completely floored me.
“Well no, there isn’t enough time to have lab experiments in the summer semester- little time and too much work. But what are your interests in science and chemistry?” Professor C asked while giving me that skeptical professor stare.
Is this an interview question for a job position? “I enjoy learning new things about biology and chemistry in general. But I try to imagine how I could apply those ideas to help people in the future. And with chemistry, I like to predict and watch reactions of chemicals when used in experiments to help my understanding of newly learned concepts.”
My professor puts his finger on his chin and looks at the ceiling for about sixty seconds. “I can make that work for you. Are you willing to put extra time in outside of class? A few extra hours a week?”
This is interesting. I can feel my heartbeat in my throat. “I don’t mind working in extra hours; I’m staying in the area all summer.”
“There is a way for you to do independent lab work towards this specific chemistry class and the lab work can go on your transcript-just without grade.” Mr. C says. “I can give you a topic for you to research and you will write two to three pages on a possible experiment, including the procedure. Basically an in depth prelab write up. After you preform the experiment you will interpret the results and type a report. I will check and grade everything.”
Wow, this would be awesome! This truly wasn’t what I was asking for at all, I just wondered about hands on experience in class. All I can think is, don’t screw this up E. “I am definitely interested in that.”
“This way, you will have ideas reinforced and you’ll get independent experience in a lab setting.”
This Monday I will turn in my topic proposal for my first experiment.
Maybe I am one of the lucky students like my friend M. Or maybe my professor sees something about me that I have yet to discover.