Bio 6A Lab

The lab is an important component of Bio 6 at De Anza. All three courses (Bio 6A-B-C) involve two labs per week, and each quarter presents its own challenges. Roughly, the three quarters of lab could be summarized like this:

  • 6A: Close observation of form and function in plants, fungi, and animals, with the goal of providing an overview of the diversity of life on earth.
  • 6B: Experiments in molecular biology. You'll work with DNA and protein learning the fundamental lab techniques that underlie modern biology.
  • 6C: Ecology field project. You'll design and carry out your own research project in ecology, work on it throughout the quarter, and present your scientific findings at the end of the quarter.

Lab work is at the heart of what biologists do. If you're going to be successful as a biology major, you should take an active approach to lab work — don't simply show up and wait to be told what to do.

How the 6A lab works

This website is the lab manual; there's no other written manual. Each day of lab will have at least one page for you to read (preferably before lab starts). Use the calendar to find out where to start, but be aware that some lab days will have more than one page for you to read. The first page of each day's lab will list all the pages you need to read.

You'll need to use this website during lab. Bring a web browsing device (laptop, tablet, phone) to lab if you can. If not, you can share the computers available in the room. You could also print the pages, but you'll lose the links and high-quality images that way.

This website will be changing throughout the quarter. Some pages aren't ready at the beginning of the quarter, and some lab exercises will only be posted shortly before the lab.

Most of the lab pages also include a section at the bottom with links to references and further reading. You don't need to read these references to do well in lab, but they will tell you where I got some of the information I used, as well as giving you an opportunity to learn more if you become curious about a particular topic.

On some days you'll have something to turn in. Sometimes this will be a group project, sometimes it will be an individual quiz. Bring a Scantron sheet (50 questions per side, any color) to each lab period; quizzes won't always be announced in advance.

When there's nothing to turn in, you still have work to do; there's a lab exam coming and it will be challenging.

How to succeed in the Bio 6A lab

There are two big challenges in the 6A lab. First, there is a lot to learn, with a huge amount of vocabulary and some difficult concepts. It might help you to think of Bio 6A as two connected classes: the lab and the lecture. They overlap, but they are largely separate. Each requires a significant time commitment to do well.

The second big challenge of the 6A lab is simply this: how will you know when you're done with lab? For many of the lab days, your basic task will be to go into lab and learn things so you'll be ready for the lab exams. Some students will be tempted to take a quick look at all the specimens that are presented and call it a day, perhaps thinking that they can review the material later, at home. In general, this doesn't work well, for several reasons. First, you're going to be tested on actual specimens, which you won't have at home. Second, you'll learn better if you work with your lab partners. And finally, if you leave it until later you'll probably never do it.

Here's how to succeed in lab: for each day of lab, make sure you're ready for that part of the lab exam before you go home. Use the review sections in class, with the specimens in front of you, rather than later at home. I will give you as much help as I can through this website, but on the lab exam, you'll be tested with the actual specimens.

Keep in mind that there are two reasons why we (your bio professors) think that labs are so important. One is that you need to directly interact with the physical materials, which you can't do online. The other reason, equally important, is that you need to interact with your fellow students. Having productive interactions with fellow students is one of the most important predictors of your success in this lab and in your scientific career. Nobody does science alone. You can start developing the skill of scientific collaboration this quarter, in this class.


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