Mackenzie (‘22, Mill Creek, WA) is a rising sophomore at the University of Portland. She will be answering some frequently asked questions that incoming students typically have regarding taking labs, as they can differ quite a bit from high school science labs. Especially if you are a pre-health student, you will be taking many labs throughout your four years here, so a little insight can’t hurt!
What science courses require labs?
As a pre-health student, you’ll be taking quite a few science courses throughout your undergrad career. Most will require a lab with the course. Although this is an extra class in your schedule, in my opinion, it does help provide you with another opportunity to be exposed to the information you learn in lecture.
How long is a lab?
Labs are scheduled for one three-hour block each week. Some labs will take the whole three hours, others will not. Some may be the full three hours one week, and only an hour or two the next. It just depends on what’s being done that day.
How many credits will I receive for a lab?
You will receive one credit per lab. So, a lecture with a lab will be four credits.
When are labs offered?
Labs are unique in that they are offered at various times throughout the day and week. It really depends on the course. Popular 100 or 200 level courses will typically have labs offered during at least one time every day of the week, where as upper division courses may only have 2 or 3 available times. Labs are also unique because they are offered at all times of the day. My first semester, I had an 8:10am-11:10am lab, while next semester I have a 6:10pm-9:10pm lab.
How much work does a lab require outside of class?
Again, it depends on the lab, but I would say just about as much work as another three-credit course. Some lab work is very structured, such as general chemistry. Every week, we would have a lab write-up, prep work, and advanced study to complete, and it was pretty routine. For intro bio lab, we would have some sort of writing assignment due essentially every week, along with a few quizzes throughout the semester on material that would be covered in that day’s lab. We didn’t ever have exams; however, I know there are labs, such as anatomy & physiology, that do have practicum exams.
What do you do in lab?
This really depends on the course. General chem lab was very structured; we had to wear lab coats, goggles, and gloves every lab, and worked with a lot of chemicals and performed many experiments. Intro bio lab was more “relaxed,” I guess. We still performed experiments and such, but also did a lot of observing and analyzing to further our own knowledge.
Is the lab grade separate of the lecture grade or are they combined?
The two grades are separate. You will take the lab in the same semester as the lecture, so they “go together” in that sense, but the coursework and grade will be completely separate from lecture, just like any other class would be.
What do I expect on my first day of lab?
This depends on the course. The first day of general chem lab is just an overview of the course, as well as some introductory information. You will also go over some safety information. The first day of intro bio lab we actually completed a lab (it wasn’t too hard or scary though so don’t be nervous!)
Do labs have final exams?
It depends. Every lab will typically have some type of final “project”. For general chem and intro bio, that is a final lab report. This is done either individually or as a group (depending on the specific course), and they can be pretty lengthy. Fear not, though, your professor is here to help guide you through this process! For other labs, such as anatomy & physiology, there may be a final “exam” type activity. They are manageable, though, so don’t worry too much about it!
Personal insight – Favorite and least favorite parts of labs:
My favorite part of labs is just the amount of cool and interesting opportunities that you get that you definitely would not if you didn’t take lab! For example, in chem lab, for our final report, we got to perform various tests to determine how much of a certain element was present in a larger substance. This was a neat experience in that I do not think I would get this opportunity anywhere else (unless I worked in a lab of some sort). My least favorite parts of labs were probably the writing portions. Surprisingly, writing is not one of my favorite things in the world! I like completing math problems and questions with “black and white answers,” so writing has never been something I have thoroughly enjoyed. I think the greatest overall benefit of lab, though, is the exposure to material learned in lecture. This can only help you, not hurt you!