Aria Vyas, a freshman double-majoring in biology and psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
When you think of an introductory biology course, you may picture a lab complete with students bent over microscopes and examining cells encased in slides. While that picture isn’t altogether wrong, it shouldn’t always be the case.
For those who may be interested in the pre-medicine track or a science major, the lab is essential. It teaches students to conduct experiments and gives them skills needed for the field. The hands-on learning can also help students learn more about the topics covered in class lectures. But for those who take the course out of sheer curiosity for the subject or to fill a requirement, the lab can be a little overwhelming. Instead, students should be able to decide for themselves, and should only take the lab if it’s something that really interests them.
I’m currently enrolled in “Introductory Biology: Cells and Molecules,” and the lecture is challenging on its own. Much like other classes, it involves three exams and depending on the professors, quizzes, homework and papers. I took AP biology in high school and still struggle to keep up with the material just because of the rapid pace of the class. When you add a lab on top of this, it can make for a heavy workload.
Lab entails meeting once a week for about three hours. There are weekly reading assignments, quizzes at the start of each class, questions that are due each week, a midterm and a final. There is also a small lecture involved in each lab.
For those who aren’t pursuing a career in science, medicine or engineering, it’s understandable that this lab component can be unnecessarily demanding. I’ve found that the lecture with the lab ends up consuming more time than any of my other classes.
It’s tiring, yes, but it’s not all bad: I’ve found benefits to the lab component that don’t come with the standard lecture. I realize that after I’ve studied a specific lab, the material becomes easier to comprehend during the lecture. I also don’t mind going to the lab because I’m able to work with others, and it’s more engaging than a normal lecture. We also cover information in lab that typical lectures don’t always explore.
For example, in one our most recent labs, we looked at bioinformatics – a combination of computer science, statistics and biological data – a topic not normally covered in the standard lecture section of the course. We didn’t just learn about what it meant, but we competed in groups and researched information online about how it can be applied in the real world. Studying how a standard lab procedure can be used on a larger scale in public health or medical science intrigues me much more than just reading information from a textbook.
If students were given the choice, I think that many would opt out of taking lab with the lecture – at least until they know if biology is a topic that they want to keep pursuing. Some students don’t need the lab nor do they enjoy it. They may prefer flashcards and textbooks to microscopes and spectrophotometers.
I personally am on a pre-medical track, so not only do I need the lab, but I’ve also found that I actually like it. But my opinions are not universal, nor should they be. Students deserve choice when it comes to their education.
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