News • September 25, 2020

CBU students experiment in labs—with extra safeguards

CBU students experiment in labs—with extra safeguards

Riverside, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2020) – Students focused on their work as they prepared for a distillation experiment in an Organic Chemistry I lab (CHE351). With students wearing lab coats, gloves and goggles, it seemed like a regular lab. Except for the masks they also wore. 

This fall semester at California Baptist University, most classes are being conducted through live/synchronous remote instruction due to COVID-19. But there are some in-person courses, which are mostly lab-based or experiential in nature. In these, safety protocols must be followed. Everyone must wear a mask and face shield, wash their hands, wipe down equipment and countertops and limit their movement around the lab. 

Chloe Beedy, a biology junior, has labs in Organic Chemistry I and Molecular Biology. 

“I was really glad to be back in the lab. This is the one thing that makes me feel like I’m back at school and things are normal again,” Beedy said. 

In Materials and Manufacturing Process (EGR344), the lab includes measuring physical samples, mixing components of a solution and performing destructive testing. 

Collaboration in the field of engineering is vital on projects, said Dr. Phil Van Haaster, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. However, in the current environment, students have worked independently. To remedy this, lab instructors are finding alternate ways for cooperation, such as requiring students to work off a shared document and collaborate remotely, he said. 

“While instructing [in-person], a professor can get real-time feedback from the students,” Van Haaster said. “This interaction is even more valuable in a lab environment, where students are often conducting real-world experiments for the first time. … When the instructor is present and observing the student, the instructor can point out and explain events that would normally be overlooked.” 

Dr. Jenifer Nalbandian, assistant professor of chemistry, said while the masks can make it hard to know who asked a question or to read a student’s face, the rest of the lab is similar to usual. 

“We’re already wearing gloves, we’re already wearing lab coats. There already is a certain level of hygiene that has to be involved,” Nalbandian said. 

The students have adapted to the additional rules, she said. 

“I am thankful that we get to have time together face-to-face, since this allows me to get to know each of my students on a deeper level. It has been nice to be able to still safely meet for lab sessions, even in the midst of COVID,” Nalbandian said. 

Although social distancing can make collaboration more difficult, Aidan Longridge, a biomedical sciences junior, said he appreciates the measures CBU has taken to mitigate the risk of COVID. 

“I definitely enjoy my laboratories,” Longridge said. “Although online learning is really well done, I think it does help to have our labs in person because it helps to cement that tactile, visual learning aspect. Especially when you’re a science student.”

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