McMaster University will continue to host undergraduate academic activities remotely for the Spring/Summer/Intersession term with only a few exceptions for courses that need student access to specialized equipment.

Biology Department Assembles Home Lab Kits For More Than 1,700 Students

Assemblying lab kitsLast summer was a warm-up for the BIO1A03 team.

After mailing lab kits to 120 Biology students in early June, the team began assembling kits during the fall term for more than 1,700 first-year students from across Ontario.
The kits, which filled eight shipping skids, were packaged by Lab Technicians Tracy Rerecich, Julie Freund-Zimmerman and Natalie Mari with help from Biology and Engineering students Marry Nissan, Kyle Amaral, Alia Voss, Veronica Rerecich and Labib Kazi.

"The students were amazing," says Rosa da Silva, Assistant Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Biology. "We couldn't have done this without them."

Other staff and faculty played key roles, says Rosa, including Rebecca Woodworth who collected student addresses, printed off 1,737 shipping labels and coordinated getting the kits out the door, Stan Zolinski who helped with shipping, and the core BIO1A03 Course Team who decided what to put in the kits.

Over the winter term, students will use their kits to conduct three experiments that will be livestreamed with their teaching assistants and labmates. Students will also complete online virtual simulations and perform data analysis.

The BIO1A03 Course Team plans to survey students at the end of the term to get their perspectives on the at-home lab kits.

Tracy's advice to colleagues who are thinking about creating at-home kits for their students? "There's far more involved than just assembling kits and sending them out the door. This was a months-long process that involved a lot of planning and coordination by the entire BIO1A03 Course Team in collaboration with amazing colleagues from across the whole university. We had tremendous support from McMaster's Equity and Inclusion Office, Environmental and Occupational Health Support Services, legal advisors, Shipping and Receiving, Customs and Traffic, the Campus Store, the Office of the Provost and our Dean Maureen MacDonald who was a champion of this project from the very beginning. Our team is incredibly grateful for the help provided by everyone"

"Together, we're giving students a unique opportunity to do science at home," says Rosa."We hope they have a great learning experience and we can't wait to welcome them to our labs on campus once the pandemic ends."

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