The Techniques Facility
The undergraduate Techniques Facility
The undergraduate Techniques Facility is an instructional resource of the Department of Biological Sciences at Hunter College. Its purpose is to introduce undergraduates with little or no prior experience to a variety of basic techniques and procedures used in laboratory research, before actual entry into a Biological Sciences research laboratory. The objectives are:
(a) to facilitate early entry into undergraduate research, and
(b) to overcome potential barriers between students and faculty research sponsors.
For research sponsors, such barriers can include repeated and possibly excessive investment of time for instruction on routine procedures, and a general hesitation to trust inexperienced students with critical research duties. For inexperienced students, the barriers can include worrying about ruining equipment and experiments, and a reluctance to ask the sponsor or others in the lab repeatedly for needed instruction.
The Techniques Facility does not offer formal courses, and there is no college credit granted for work performed in it. The Facility provides instruction on a tutorial basis, working at your own pace. It serves Hunter College Biological Sciences majors falling into a variety of categories, including:
(a) those registered for a research course (such as BIOL. 480),
(b) those performing research duties in the MBRS, MARC, and Hughes Scholar programs, and
(c) those contemplating doing research work at Hunter College or possibly other institutions.
Use of the Facility requires a permission form (obtainable in the facility or from the Department of Biological Sciences Office) signed by a faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences. Work in the Facility is supervised by experienced undergraduates.
The Techniques Facility has been established with financial support from the National Science Foundation undergraduate Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement (ILI) program, and from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate education program in the Biological Sciences.
The Techniques Facility workbook
This workbook contains instructional information and exercises divided into "modules". These are presented in a specific sequence, with later modules building upon earlier ones. Therefore, they must be followed in numbered order. Most of the modules are designed to provide actual working experience with commonly used laboratory instruments and apparatus, including pipetting devices, balances, pH meter, spectrophotometer, centrifuge, and microscope. Exercises involve their use in typical research lab activities. Additional modules cover subjects such as lab safety, keeping a lab notebook, and doing a literature search. Background information is provided throughout in the form of written material, charts, and videotapes, but the emphasis is on practical matters and working experience, not textbook knowledge or theory.
We hope that you will benefit from these exercises and enjoy use of the Facility, and that you will feel free to ask questions and seek assistance as needed. The ultimate objective is for you to feel comfortable enough in the basic techniques to be able to progress into the thinking and planning aspects of research. Please note that the workbook material is open to modification as experience is gained in its use. Therefore, we would greatly appreciate receiving your suggestions for improvements.
Throughout these modules you will encounter "exercises" that are set off from the text material by double lines. Here you are given instructions to do something specific in the Tech Facility.
EXERCISE #1: Questionnaire
(1) As a first exercise, please fill out the questionnaire (next few pages).
(2) When finished, return the questionnaire to a Facility supervisor.
F NOTE: A COLORED ARROWHEAD APPEARS HERE AND IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN OTHER MODULES. IT MEANS THAT, BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER, YOU SHOULD CALL OVER YOUR Facility SUPERVISOR, EITHER TO HAND IN SOMETHING OR TO HAVE A PROCEDURE OR CALCULATION CHECKED.
This questionnaire plus an additional one administered at the end of your work in the Tech Facility will give us background information for assessing the current value of the Facility and planning additional modules or extending Facility functions. We may also contact you after you have gained further experience in a research laboratory, to obtain additional valuable feedback.