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My inquiry eFolio for ETEC 533

  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah McLean

Developing Future Scientists

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

I have just taken over a third-year laboratory course. Am I setting my students up for success?

Today was my first in-class wet laboratory session for my third-year IMS students. The topic this week was cell culture and we spent time in class going over both the theoretical and the technical aspects of cell culture.

Now, if you are in any sort of science field, you know that cell culture is not the "coolest" topic to work on in a lab. However, there were a few goals that I had in mind with this particular lab:

1- I wanted students to know that it was okay to make mistakes, and that it can be challenging to develop good aseptic technique.

2- I wanted each of my students to have an opportunity to work in a biological safety cabinet (this is 28 students in this particular section!)

3- I wanted my students to appreciate that cell culture can really be the starting point for many scientific discoveries. Remember, bench to bedside starts with bench!

I think my first point, to let students know that it is okay to make mistakes, is important. I feel that we do not give students enough time to truly learn from mistakes. I mean, to be honest, my first few months in graduate school were mistake after mistake. And you know what else? Those first few months of graduate school were incredibly important for my growth as an academic. I learned to deal with failure, to troubleshoot, and to think critically. Now, is this possible for ALL of my students to do in one laboratory session? Absolutely not. But it is possible for my students to enjoy the process by not being so worried about making mistakes. Any scientist knows that science is messy, wonderful, and full of serendipitous findings. By being approachable in the lab, sharing my tales of failure, and letting students make mistakes, I hope that I can foster in them the creative desire to explore science.

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