Lab summit seeks to enhance undergraduate lab courses

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Faculty, lab instructors, consultants, staff, and graduate students came together this week for the first Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry lab summit.

The goal of the September 14th meeting was to improve the undergraduate experience in lab courses so that more students successfully complete their requirements while simultaneously finding the learning experience compelling and exciting.

The summit was inspired by Professor and Chair Miguel Garcia-Garibay’s interest in undergraduate education and it was organized by Professor and Vice Chair Cathy Clarke.  They invited faculty, instructors, graduate student teaching assistants, and several outside consultants, including two instructors of life sciences labs and two representatives of the Office for Instructional Development.

Organizers of the summit Miguel Garcia-Garibay (left) and Cathy Clarke (right).

Groups of five or six discussed a variety of issues, including alternatives to traditional lab reports, ways to make labs more meaningful and relevant to everyday experience, and ideas of cutting-edge technologies that can be used to enliven the lab experience.  It turned into two hours of solid brainstorming about best practices in laboratory education.  Each constituency offered their perspective and, when the larger group came together at the end, they generated a list of dozens of new ideas to improve and enhance both lower-division and upper-division labs.

The enthusiasm of the group goes perfectly with the start of the new academic year. Over 1200 students will be taking chemistry and biochemistry labs in the fall and the department wants to assure that they are successful and to nurture their passion for science.

UCLA consultants at the summit were Erin Sanders, Director, Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEIL); Gaston Pfluegl, Lab Director, Life Sciences Core, (Computational Biologist); Rachel Sauvageot, Lab Safety Officer, CCLE/online videos; Joanne Valli-Meredith, Director, Evaluation & Educational Assessment (OID); and Marc Levis, Director, Educational Assessment (OID).


Photo Captions

At the first Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Lab Summit:

1. (L) Jim Gober, Ives Rubin & Erin Sanders. (R) Kathleen Micham, Miguel Garcia-Garibay, Gaston Pfluegl

2. Breakout group in discussion.

3. (L) Johnny Pang and Ignacio Martini (R) Anne Hong-Hermesdorf and Alf Bacher.

4. Breakout group in discussion.

5. (L) Brianna Upton and Hosea Nelson. (R) Jennifer Casey.

Photos by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry