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Yes, Rave and Research Do Mix Well

Colorful Chemicals Help to Reinvent Lab Environment

  • Glowing Reviews
    Glowing Reviews  Professor Elizabeth Harbron makes chemistry colorful for students in the lab.  Photo by Mark Mitchell courtesy of the W&M Alumni Magazine
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Just about every student throughout history has felt the stomach turning anxiety that accompanies a teacher watching their every move; every twitch of the finger and panicked breath noted, the judgmental gaze burning over their shoulder. Even tiny cavemen had a big, club-wielding tutor watching them count their rocks. And while the teacher perceives this tension as potentially helpful, sometimes it requires a certain degree of self-determination in order for a student to bring their knowledge to fruition. Professor Elizabeth Harbron believes this, and practices it in every lab she hosts.

"Sometimes the professor can be a little scary, a little intimidating," Harbron notes. "I do want to be there in the lab, showing them, guiding them, helping them interpret their results. But, if I stand there too much, I think that it also takes away from their developing independence."

Organic Chemistry can, in itself, be an intimidating class though. So how does one lure on-the-fence chemists to such a class? By having an all-day rave, of course!

One of the aspects of Professor Harbron's class that really sets it apart is that she works with various chemicals that can change color, light up and even glow.

"The inherent appeal of light and color can’t be understated. Everything in my lab either is very colorful or changes color in response to light or some other stimulus. There's a 'cool factor' to it."

And there certainly is. There is an obvious difference in appeal between, "I am going to mix these three ingredients and make this unstable compound," and, "I am going to mix these three ingredients and make this unstable compound THAT GLOWS PINK WHEN I SHINE LASERS THROUGH IT." And Professor Harbron definitely knows how to play on that interest.

But Harbron also believes in the power of peer tutelage, and she encourages her older students to assist the younger students in their chemical endeavors. Through her teaching style and love of educating young minds, Elizabeth Harbron is a shining example of how William & Mary continues to attract wonderful minds and people alike. Through her passion, more and more students are able to excel and move forward in the world, proud of their accomplishments and grateful for her guidance.

That, and who doesn't want to have a rave in Chemistry class?!