Science Labs vs. Mental Health

Photo courtesy of Naz Web


Being subjected to peer and familial pressure in high school resulted in me initially pursuing a degree in biology. I felt burdened by my career plans at that time, and did not see myself as a future physician. To complement my indecisiveness that time, I would tell my peers and family friends that I wanted to become a medical researcher, but inside, I always desired to pursue a career in public policy.

However, my childhood and most of my adolescence were surrounded by books related to genetics and neuroscience. It was difficult to see myself in a lab attempting to make a breakthrough in curing cancer or researching Alzheimer’s disease in rats.

During the fall semester of my freshman year at Mason, I took two science classes, each of which had a laboratory component. I felt overwhelmed with the workload and struggled with self-care. It would take a relatively short time to complete essays and projects in my English classes.

On the other hand, the three lab reports I had to write each week for my chemistry and biology classes took hours to write, considering that I could lose thirty points for a simple data miscalculation. In addition, the concepts in chemistry were difficult to absorb due to my instructor’s unwillingness to teach, so I had to spend additional time out of class trying to teach myself the concepts.

Thankfully, I changed my major from biology to community health, knowing I wanted to do something with public health law. I did not have to take another chemistry class, but unfortunately found myself succumbing to a poor regimen once again due to the difficulty and workload burden of my anatomy lab and lecture classes — which are requirements for the community health major. I feel I have lagged behind on my adult responsibilities, such as doing my laundry, managing finances and taking care of family.

Unfortunately, my experience with my science laboratory classes is nothing more than a harsh reality for the majority of college students across colleges and universities in the United States.

College is undoubtedly difficult in terms of finding the balance between academics, managing money and finding a job. Unfortunately, science majors face another deterrence in finding the optimal balance of general college responsibilities: the stress of studying and completing assignments for laboratory and lecture sections. Students from universities such as the University of California, Los Angeles and George Washington have spoken out about the stress of lab assignments that have triggered many students to cheat to pass. For students who don’t plan on incorporating the practical aspects of science — such as medicine and research — taking science labs is trivial to enriching a student in his or her career field.

There are disparities in the extent to which a laboratory component can enrich a student’s career field. The tackling of these disparities underlies in the potent proposal of additional offerings of Bachelor of Arts options for commonly categorized science majors, such as community health and physics. For existing and potential Bachelor of Arts options that are available relating to science subjects, the laboratory component should be considered an elective and not a major requirement for these degrees.

Perhaps Mason can add more science classes that include seminar components in lieu of laboratory components to encourage students to consider the connection between scientific components, and public policy or current events.

However, for those who are planning on pursuing a health profession or research, a Bachelor of Science will still provide critical enrichment through laboratory components. Laboratory instructors should facilitate online resources — such as discussion boards on Blackboard for the purposes of allowing students additional opportunities to communicate if they need clarifications on concepts discussed in class. In addition, instructors should also coordinate with academic coaches in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in order to encourage students to study smarter and not harder.