Davis studies the process of perfecting lab experiments

Myiah Davis ’20 isn’t your typical chemistry research student.

Myiah Davis conducting a science experimentThis junior from Galesburg, Illinois, who’s designing her own major in chemistry, psychology, and education, is not just learning chemistry, she’s learning how other students learn chemistry.

Davis worked to perfect lab experiments meant for her peers during the Cornell Summer Research Institute (CSRI).

“I think it’s important, and it’s definitely something Cornell hasn’t explored before–I’m the first chemistry education research student,” Davis said. “These labs are really important for students because it scaffolds their learning.”

The labs are associated with the POGIL Project, which stands for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. It’s a style of teaching and learning that’s studied and used by Professor of Chemistry Craig Teague.

“Students work in small teams and discover concepts by working on specially-designed activities,” Teague said. “The important feature is they are talking to each other and developing lifelong learning skills that match very well with what we are trying to do at Cornell College: critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork.”

Professors who use this style of teaching have teamed up to write new lab experiments for students, but they need to be refined. Davis is making sure everything is perfect for students to understand and conduct each experiment. Over the summer, she spent a lot of time in the labs of West Hall, sometimes doing experiments several times in a row.

“I usually spend two and a half days a week in the lab running experiments and then I answer all the questions like a student would,” Davis said. “At the end, I write up a mini report, which analyzes anything I think was misleading or anything that’s hard for students to understand.”

Davis says the labs are relatable to students, which is why she likes them. Some experiments she tested included how a cold pack works and if a hot drink can treat hypothermia. One of her favorites was using gas laws to understand how cans implode.

Teague says they are learning a lot from one another as she explores the newly-written lab experiments. The professors behind the labs are learning what students might be confused by and Davis is learning how much work goes into each lesson.

“I think one of Myiah’s biggest takeaways from this project is understanding how professors think about what they are doing in the classroom,” Teague said. “How do we think about what we are going to say, what we are going to do, what activities we are going to do, how do we work through that? And how much work it is to go through these guided-inquiry activities.”

Forty students worked with 20 faculty members on a variety of intensive research projects for the eight weeks of CSRI, May 21–July 13, 2018.

CSRI has been held on campus for four years with research projects on a variety of subject matters. Throughout the institute, participants also attend panels and discussions to help prepare them for life after college on topics such as applying for graduate school, selling your skills, and learning about research ethics.