The 2020 Fall semester is in full swing! Despite its historically unprecedented online instruction, Queens College faculty and staff are tirelessly working to ensure that students receive a quality education. With more students being infected by COVID-19 on college campuses across the nation, the fear of a local spike in cases still remains prevalent amongst members of the community. The majority of students are receiving synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both lecture types through diverse platforms such as CUNY Blackboard Collaborative Ultra, Zoom, Google Meets, Slack, Dropbox and others. But what happens to those students and professors who need access to science laboratories as per their major or minor requirements?
QC’s Chemistry and Biochemistry departments are committed to a safe and adeptly restrictive laboratory instruction. The Official Queens College Chemistry department website cited that certain classes, including those requiring the lab, were carried out remotely up until September 4, 2020. Following this date, in-person lab activities as well as individual research projects will take place on campus.
The Knight News spoke with Dr. Seogjoo Jang, professor and chair to the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Queens College, to confer and further comprehend the college’s efforts to safeguard its students as well as to meet the necessary needs of its students. Some of the main points of discussion included the transition plans from remote instruction to in-person laboratory activities, the implementation of social distancing and potential, and the preparation for foreseeable problems. “The whole class is divided into two to three groups, offering an in-person laboratory for one group, while offering asynchronous online laboratories for others,” revealed Dr. Jang. Ideally, all in-person laboratory activities will be completed prior to the Thanksgiving holiday so that subsequent lab activities can resume online. As per a thorough inspection and examination of the lab facilities by QC administrators, they determined that the maximum number of students allowed per each laboratory is 9. The general number of students present at one time is about 18-24 students. Thus, hosting only 9 students is a significant reduction. Another safety precaution QC labs is taking is offering free masks and gloves to all students. For those individuals who need to wait outside the lab facilities, there are marked socially distant spaces for students to stand on. Dr. Jang also assured The Knight News that although QC is fully equipped to face every possible scenario thought of, an issue of noncompliance may arise if students do not adhere to the rules set by laboratory instructors.
To gauge how students are feeling, I spoke with sophomore chemistry student, Maria Mahmood, to hear her perspective about the class environment and the virtual to in-person instruction transition: “During the first couple of days of instruction, there was a lot of miscommunication between CUNY, the chemistry department, professors and students because our plans were constantly changing.” The miscommunication catalyzed frustration and uncertainty, as some students were under the impression that students will attend in-person laboratories every other week, some only five times in the semester, and others only three. Since then, the outlook has changed; the solidified plan includes rotative groups to minimize the amount of people in one facility.
Even though 1% of classes are online, it’s important that we all be mindful of our actions during this pandemic. Please make sure to stay socially distanced from others when outside, and to always wear a mask to protect yourself and prevent the spread of coronavirus.