Lyon professor provides microscopes to students for at-home labs

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Featured image: Junior Hannah Wu (right) picks up her microscope for histology lab from Dr. Maryline Jones. Image via Lyon College
Article by Kelby Newcomb, Lyon College

A Lyon College professor loaned microscopes to her students in order to continue hands-on labs during virtual education during the COVID-19 crisis.

Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones provided microscopes and slides to the six upperclassmen in her histology course before the semester began.

“We had our first lab last week,” Jones said. “It went very well, and they were very happy with it.”

Jones also gave the students an attachment for their phones, which allows them to display what they are viewing through the microscope on their computer screens.

“They shared what their phone camera was seeing,” she said, “so every time they looked through the microscope, I would see what they were seeing.”

In some ways, Jones said, this setup proved to be an advantage over in-person labs.

“With them sharing what they see, I was able to look at the pictures and tell them if they were getting close to what we were looking for.”

Normally, Jones cannot see what each student is seeing. If they were in-person, she would take over the student’s microscope to steer them in the right direction.

“I actually feel like it’s a plus because instead of me just showing them, they actually had to look for it,” she said.

Junior Hannah Wu of Cabot agreed that not having Jones physically present challenges the students to listen closely to her instructions.

“I guess that can also be considered an advantage because we are developing our listening skills,” Wu said.

Senior Allison Mundy of Bryant said this helps with the pace of the lab.

“When one student asks a question, we can see the slide as Dr. Jones gives an answer,” she said.

“I almost like it better than in-person lab…almost.”

The idea to loan students microscopes came about while the science departments were discussing how to hold virtual labs.

“I was talking with my colleagues and was saying there was no point in me doing labs if the students don’t get to have a microscope,” Jones said.

“I mentioned the only way for me to have the lab would be to send them microscopes. That’s how the idea came about.”

Fortunately, Jones said, none of her students in this fall’s histology course live far from Batesville, so they were able to pick up the microscopes before the semester began. The students made a loan agreement with Jones, promising to pay for the equipment if they damage the microscopes or do not return them to the college.

“I know they are students I can trust because I’ve had them before,” she said, “so I felt very confident about letting them have the microscopes.”

Senior Téa Mason of Newark, who is in her final semester as a biology major, said using the microscopes at home wasn’t a challenge at this point in her college career.

“I was just surprised to be given this opportunity,” she said. “Being able to have these at home and participate in lab has been a major game-changer for me in comparison to last semester.”

“I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything from being forced to take classes virtually this semester,” Mason said.

Mundy said the lab is very mobile since it involves just a microscope and some slides.

“It’s a little stressful having a $2,000 piece of equipment sitting on my bookshelf and explaining to my cat that he cannot play with my slides,” she said. “Lab this year is going well, though. I didn’t expect it to be as successful as it has been.”

Jones said her hope was that by providing the necessary equipment, her students would feel like they were still getting a real lab experience while doing remote instruction.

Wu was thrilled that Jones came up with this idea.

“It made me really happy because I was so scared about not having labs, which are a huge portion in the learning process,” Wu said.

“Histology without labs is like a sandwich without bread. The labs really hold everything into place.”

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