Zooming in on Lab Work for Students
"With the pandemic restricting access to labs for our undergraduate students, I’ve been hosting virtual sessions to show students lab procedures and also how research happens – all the excitement of new results and the challenges of running experiments.
"I started using my computer to Zoom students into the lab back in January. But I wasn't able to bring the students with me as I conducted experiments. My supervisor, Dr. Maureen MacDonald, suggested that I set up a harness to take the students with me through the lab.
"Students now get to join me on Zoom through a smartphone I wear in a harness. I also wear a Bluetooth headset so they can ask and answer questions while I'm working. We run sessions almost daily as I go through various cell culture procedures, including growing up the cells, treating them with various hormone conditions, running Western blots for protein analysis, and probing with immunofluorescent probes to look at intracellular metabolites. I also record the sessions for students who couldn’t join in and to develop training videos.
"I initially ran the sessions for undergraduate students in my lab but the opportunity has now grown to include students from other programs who are interested in seeing what research looks like. The virtual medium makes it very accessible for students to drop in and everyone gets an unobstructed view. Students who would have never otherwise had an opportunity this term to see the inner workings of a research lab now have a chance to see and be a part of this experience. Hopefully, these sessions are getting students excited and prepared for going into a lab and doing hands-on research in the near future."