In this first post, we learned about the Kalyani lab philosophy of summer research – “Make it Happen”. Now, as summer draws to a close, Dr. Dipa Kalyani shares insights and observations of student growth. She recounts and reflects from her front-row seat as the students transform from “novice researchers to mentors.”
We are officially past the halfway point of the summer, and the lab atmosphere is as vibrant as ever. Bowie left for China, but her mentorship has been instrumental throughout the summer. We are sad to see her go, but excited to see her continue to grow as a researcher as she starts graduate school in the Fall.
“To learn to think is to learn to question.”
A phrase from my college application essay resonates with me every year as I witness students’ transition from novice researchers to mentors: “To learn to think is to learn to question.” The students are finally at a point where they “question” procedures that they previously “accepted”.
The students are finally at a point where they “question” procedures that they previously “accepted”.
All students have made tremendous progress on their projects. They have streamlined procedures to make their projects more manageable during the upcoming academic year. It has been great to see students take ownership of their research. Students improvised on procedures for making and purifying substrates for their projects. They have learned time management skills to carefully plan their days/weeks to accomplish their goals. They are making documents for instrument operation and data keeping protocols, something we have gotten better at each year.
Students often express how satisfying it is to see results quickly. In the words of students: “We can get more done in lab in one day during the summer than we could during each week throughout the academic year. It’s crazy to compare what we know now to what we thought we knew at the beginning of the summer”
Another student noted…”I have learned to question and appreciate the details necessary to be accountable for the discoveries I make in lab that might ultimately be published”
Another student noted: “Before starting research I thought I knew how to maintain a lab notebook from general and organic chemistry classes. Research has taken documentation to the next level. In classes we followed procedures, whereas in research we are developing procedures for new reactions. I have learned to question and appreciate the details necessary to be accountable for the discoveries I make in lab that might ultimately be published in a manuscript I co-author”
While students are excited about research, they are equally eager to spend time together. Prior to the summer, the students were acquaintances, but now each team has a name, and each student has a nickname.
Unlike the previous three years I have spent considerable time in lab myself this summer to complete experiments for a manuscript on a project that we started in 2015. Students on this project have either graduated or are pursuing an off-campus industrial internship. My presence in lab has helped ensure students are following procedures the correct way and makes it easier for students to ask questions or receive immediate advice. Summer research in my lab ends in two weeks after which I am leaving to visit my family in India for three weeks! In August, I will be attending the Fall ACS meeting before getting busy with the academic year responsibilities in late August.
My presence in lab has helped ensure students are following procedures the correct way and makes it easier for students to ask questions or receive immediate advice.
This year’s summer research students plan to continue their research projects during the academic year. They will become mentors to incoming students and are attempting to prepare for their new roles. They are in the process of creating a document that outlines basic procedures and expectations for the lab. It’s the circle of Kalyani Lab!
~Dr. Dipa Kalyani is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at St. Olaf College where her research with undergraduates focuses on the discovery of greener and more economical processes for the construction of molecular architectures commonly found in many chemicals.