Lab Crawl was well attended this semester with many students making stops at demonstrations held in one or more of 22 labs across campus.
Since its inception in 2013, Oberlin’s Center for Learning, Education and Research in the Sciences (CLEAR) has organized Lab Crawl as a way to introduce students to research at Oberlin College. The last time the event was held was in 2019, just before the pandemic, which made this year’s crawl a new experience for both first- and second-year students.
“Many students new to Oberlin or new to research are unfamiliar with the range of research happening on campus. Some may not feel that they belong in research. Lab Crawl directly addresses these concerns through a fun and low-stakes event,” explains Director of CLEAR Sabriya Rosemond. “Learning about labs they may not have considered before can also open up new possibilities for students as they make decisions about their academic career.”
Similar to previous years, students were given the opportunity to visit and learn from peer Lab Crawl volunteers in several research fields, including anthropology, physics, astronomy, neuroscience, biochemistry and chemistry, and geology.
Peer-to-peer learning plays a vital role in the crawl’s success. Around 95 volunteers assisted with set-up and welcomed students into labs this year.
According to HHMI STEM Fellow Marcus Hill ’19, the peer-to-peer interactions during Lab Crawl echo the passion, enthusiasm, and excitement students have when they are learning in those spaces.
“Research is more than just analyzing data and presenting at conferences, it’s about the relationships you build with the faculty and fellow research students,” Hill says. “Lab Crawl provides an opportunity for [students] who haven’t had the experience to hear directly from those who play key roles in labs. [It’s a learning experience] that you can’t get from reading a poster or watching a video.”
A Lab Crawl tradition is the “participation passports” students are given and the stickers they receive to fill them. Stickers are provided at each lab they visit, and passports can be exchanged for pizza and a chance to win a T-shirt.
This year, by the end of the two-hour event, 85 students had turned in their participation passports, with many more making quick stops at lab demonstrations and tables as their time allotted, says CLEAR Administrative Assistant Pat Sturges. Some labs reported having more than 50 visitors.
By all accounts, [Lab Crawl] was a success, says Rosemond, whose staff have heard from several faculty members that students had already expressed interest in working in their labs.
“In my own visit to some labs, I noticed that the conversations were not just limited to the research, but how students can participate in research, their experiences in a given department, or even suggestions of fun or exciting courses and opportunities,” says Rosemond. “These interactions are mutually beneficial. While attendees get to learn about the research, the student volunteers have the opportunity to practice communicating about their work to a broad audience which is an important skill for all researchers.”
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