Lab provides space for teaching and research

by Jacqueline Menjivar / Beacon Correspondent • March 2, 2016

1456980109 1.jpg
Students in the science lab.
Students in the science lab.

The Ansin Building’s laboratory space—which opened this academic year—hosts science courses and in-class experiments.

The lab is on the seventh floor of Ansin and is available both as a classroom space and area for professors to conduct research. Jamie Lichtenstein, affiliated faculty, teaches the science course DNA and Society in the facility.

“Last semester, I brought [students from my Human Health and Disease class] in to do a lab,” Lichtenstein said.

The students from that class did a lab on the blood disease sickle-cell anemia, Lichtenstein said. They received gel samples representing people. They had to examine the samples, and determined if they carried the disease.

“In the feedback on course evaluations, a large number of students said the lab was the highlight of the course,” Lichtenstein said.

Marissa Secreto was in that course last semester.

“It was so different from just being inside the classroom every single day, so that was kind of a highlight,” the freshman writing, literature, and publishing major said.

Lichtenstein said she taught her DNA and Society students how to use a pipetman in lab this semester to accurately transfer small volumes of liquid. In a future lab, the class will use the tool to determine whether certain soy and corn products are genetically modified.

Benjamin Fuhrmann, a sophomore visual and media arts major, is in Lichtenstein’s current section of DNA and Society.

“We already don’t have to take math classes [at Emerson],” Fuhrmann said. “In the interest of just being a well-rounded person, I think it’s important to have that [lab space] available.”

Classes in the lab cap at 24 students, which Lichtenstein said is her average size. Secreto said that the classes should be smaller.

“It was really cramped, and the lab wasn’t very big at all,” Secreto said. “That made it a little difficult to navigate around. I think it was just a general consensus that the lab went well, but it was pretty tight in there.”

Associate professor Wyatt Oswald taught Plants and People in the lab last semester. He's currently teaching two sections of Climate Change there. Eventually, Oswald said, he wants to set up a microscope and tree-ring measuring tool.

Oswald said his classes are currently conducting a semester-long experiment. Students bring samples from different plant species into the lab to monitor how long it takes for them to bud. They're responsible for maintaining the experiment by changing the water and trimming the specimens once a week.

Oswald said he recognizes that Emerson students don’t typically come to this school to study science. But, he said, these lab classes could introduce them to science communication.

“Right now there’s a gap between scientists and the general public,” Oswald said. “The general public doesn’t really understand the relevance and importance of science, and scientists often don’t get the awareness of the work that they’re doing. For an enterprising Emerson student who has some interest in science—and who has the creativity and the skills that are required here to tell stories—that’s a really interesting opportunity.”