Students use computer technology in science labs

By on March 30, 2005

Four and half years ago Dr. Harry Pylypiw, an associate professor of chemistry, urged Quinnipiac to use computers for science applications, specifically, with the Science (SC) 102 labs. When the science department approved the course enhancements, many non-major science students traded their beakers for keyboards.

Today, students in SC102 labs use laptops for the majority of lab experiments. Pylypiw feels that the computers provide an invaluable resource to the science students.

“There are a number of experiments we can do now that were nearly impossible without a computer,” Pylypiw said. “The simulation software far exceeds the ability to do something on paper or with a simple lab experiment that just demonstrates.”

Pylypiw explained how celestial experiments are now finally possible because of the use of computer enhancement in the SC102 lab. “For example, we can now see [in a science lab] what the stars were like when Christ was born,” Pylypiw said.

The computers are used in chemistry, astrology and geological simulations when live experiments are either dangerous or impractical.

John Suszynski, a junior media production major, sees no problem with the switch. “I think it’s still effective,” Suszynski said. “Technology nowadays is always going to be replacing old methods of doing things.”

Concerning the absence of hands-on experience, Suszynski mentioned that watching a video of Pylypiw lead a tour of Sleeping Giant for a geology lab is definitely not as effective as climbing the mountain yourself and being able to physically look at the rocks with a professor.

“It’s as effective in terms of theory and teaching. It’s certainly not effective in developing lab technique,” said Brenan Geelan, a SC102 adjunct professor, about the difference between the simulations and actual lab equipment. He went on to say that since SC102 is a non-major science course, students being able to develop their lab technique is not really important.

Geelan feels that the labs are beneficial when working as a group and that having students do lab experiments by themselves (now that equipment is not needed for most experiments,) would not be as helpful.

“I like being able to work with partners and being in the classroom atmosphere. If I didn’t have a scheduled lab, then I feel I wouldn’t be as disciplined and would not learn as much,” said Mark Eicher, a senior sociology and media production major.

Aside from SC102, there are other introductory science courses which also incorporate computer technology into their lab programs. Nutrition (SC105) utilizes computers for diet analysis, while Elements of Physics (PH101) uses them just for graphing.


About Brendan Lewis