Hello! My name is Ingrid and I am a rising senior working this summer to plan new labs for Helen’s “Introduction to Molecular Thermodynamics” course. While the rest of the White lab crew is saving humanity from extinction one heroic discovery at a time and still finding time to fight dinosaurs and attend funerals, I am bumming around the science building reading magazines, getting gas and drawing pictures.
Well, kind of. The first week I dove into a crash course on pedagogical approaches to teaching science in the laboratory. Like a shiny penny at the bottom of the pool, I got my hands on a PRINT VERSION of the ACS Journal of Chemical Education. While online publications are convenient to access from my dorm room at 1:30 am on the morning of a deadline, nothing replaces the satisfaction of leafing through pages of print journals. A quick dip in pedagogical theory armed me with the vocabulary to participate in the current discourse as we apply it to the lab component of Helen’s course. The lab is centered around two project-based learning goals: synthesizing biodiesel and working with fuel-cells. Each laboratory period will incorporate guided-inquiry techniques. For example, the teaching assistants will be armed with leading questions to pose to students while they work. It has been interesting to note that seriously thinking about laboratory learning is nourishing my blossoming appreciation for Superlab, the Haverford Junior mandatory laboratory course ….now that it’s over.
During week two, I skipped the gas pump and produced biodiesel myself. By the end of the week I felt like I’d been swimming in biodiesel. But only figuratively, because the 50 mL I synthesized in lab wasn’t enough to dip my toes in. Also, who wants sock fuzz in something that powers a diesel engine, back-up generator, and camping lantern? This summer, the oily nature of my work and the limited surface space in Helen’s lab has prompted me to mostly set up shop in Superlab and the chemistry lounge. While I miss the daily lab banter, I enjoy hearing reports over lunch, during lab meeting and through the blog.
With a biodiesel procedure in hand, last week I compiled the laboratory manual! I’m excited to incorporate cartoon illustrations that demonstrate techniques next to the procedures. I’ve only just started sketching, but hopefully we can find a classy place for them. The first test run of the lab manual is this week, so cross your fingers! It still needs edits, so I’m off!