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Teaching Students For Laboratory Purpose

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By Author: moni catsfbd
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It is important for institutions to realize that the time faculty spend mentoring undergraduates in the laboratory is teaching and should be recognized as such. This is a particularly important issue for faculty. The faculty investment in mentoring and guiding student research represents a large commitment of time and resources. This must be recognized as an important teaching responsibility and integrated into the overall workload of the faculty member. At the same time, students should receive appropriate course credit for their research. The National Research Council's Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering can assist faculty in this important role.

Undergraduate research is a discovery-driven effort that must be carried out in the setting of a strong and supportive natural science community. A key factor in the program is the close professional partnership between the student and faculty member. While faculty members may be excellent research scholars, they are not necessarily all equally adept at being research mentors for undergraduate students. Indeed, many ...
... institutions make attempts to train good mentors by holding workshops for faculty and graduate and postdoctoral students, and by pairing junior faculty with successful and respected senior faculty as peer mentors. In the best of circumstances, the faculty mentor works in the laboratory with the student, resulting in extensive informal student-faculty interaction and helping the student to build self-confidence in the research endeavor.

The mentor guides the student in all aspects of the scientific process, including literature searches, experimental design, construction and operation of scientific equipment, carrying out experiments, and interpreting results. The mentor also assists the student in professional development, including giving course advice, discussing career path options, and introducing students to key individuals at graduate institutions. Faculty play the lead role in educating students to effectively communicate their research results through regular group meetings, weekly student research seminars in the summer, presentations at off-campus research symposia, poster preparation, and manuscript writing. Student attendance at regional and national meetings with their mentors should be a priority. When individual mentoring is combined with excellent science, the student becomes strengthened not only in a particular research agenda, but also gains a foundation for success in science that extends beyond the immediate institution.

Many undergraduates get their sole experience doing independent laboratory research in the summer. In biology, most of those students go to universities where they are supported by the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program of the National Science Foundation or undergraduate education grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. These programs are predicated on the notion that an active research experience is one of the most effective ways to attract talented undergraduates to science and to retain them in science and engineering careers. These programs stress the importance of interactions between students and faculty or other research mentors in addition to research productivity at larger institutions. For smaller schools with insufficient campus research opportunities, summer research both for students and faculty is vital to the educational development and enrichment of life sciences majors. However, research takes time and where possible, the continuation of summer research throughout the year, even if a few hours a week, can greatly increase the learning experience.

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