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Science students hit by lockdown catch up on missed lab work

Date 8.10.2021

Science students who missed out on laboratory sessions due to the pandemic have been given extra support to brush up their practical skills.

University of Northampton undergraduates studying Human Bioscience and Biological Sciences during the 2020-21 academic year had their time in the lab curtailed, when Covid-19 forced teaching to go online.

Ahead of the new academic year, 45 second and third years attended a special day in the lab, to help them catch up on any practical skills they might have had gaps in.

Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, Jodie Score, said: “Although we prioritised lab sessions for face-to-face teaching, last year, it was reduced compared to normal.

“As a workaround we did everything we could to carry out experiments online, but obviously nothing can beat getting your hands on a pipette and trying things out for yourself in the lab.

“We were keen to offer the students the chance to bring up their confidence in the lab and brush up their skills, so nobody was left with any gaps in their practical knowledge and experience.

“We mixed up the third and second years into groups and so those with more experience were able to share it with those who had less, and it worked really well.”

The session was planned and led by two Master’s students, Oluwabusayo Mimiko and Adebayo Idowu.

Jodie added: “The session was also beneficial for Oluwabusayo and Adebayo as they have not been able to take part in any work placements for their applied practice module, due to the disruption of lockdown, and that’s something they need to have under their belts.

“By planning and leading the session, they were able to gain some applied practice experience, so it was a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Students learnt key techniques such as microbiology, protein analysis and loading an agarose gel to analyse DNA.

Third year Biomedical Science student, Abbey Briscombe, said: “It was very disruptive to miss out on lab sessions last year as it made writing practical reports more challenging. Physically doing a practical is the best way to learn and understand what a protocol is explaining, as you can’t always imagine the equipment used without physically seeing it.”

The sessions helped students to catch up on what they’d missed in the lab.

She added: “I found the session helpful as it recapped a lot of the first year practicals, and built up my confidence on simple laboratory skills such as pipetting and working with aseptic technique.

“Second years were also encouraged to help the first years by working in groups which encouraged building teamwork skills, which was obviously largely discouraged previously due to social distancing.

“The session, as well as completing a summer vacation internship, massively brought my confidence back working in the laboratory and enabled me to fine tune my laboratory skills to a more professional level than was accomplished during my first year.

“This has allowed me to enter my final year worry free and gave me more confidence for when I will be looking for employment in a year’s time.”