GLENSIDE, Pa. (WLVT) — Campus may be closed, but an Arcadia University professor has found a unique way to bring his lab to students.
"They can’t come on campus, so the second best way to do this is through videos with me leading and guiding them as I normally would in-person," Logan Fields, Ph.D, told PBS39.
With a GoPro strapped to his head, Fields is bringing his psychology class up-close to the lab, so that they can study animal behavior.
"The animals in our lab are part of a class called Learning in Cognition," explained Fields. "Students run experiments like classical conditioning and test for basic memory. This year we’re using a strain of rat called the Long-Evans. They’re very intelligent and very adorable!"
Fields says the animals bring joy to his students.
"Our animals are taken care of really well. They have enriched housing in enlarged areas and live in groups. The funniest names the students give them are associated with cheese, like Swiss Cheese and Cheddar. At the end of the semester, the students are able to adopt the animals if they want to," said Fields.
He says the lab aims to help students learn how to gather data, analyze it and formulate scientific research.
"They may have missed out on the in-person experience of being in the lab, but they’re gaining a lot of other important skills," said Fields. "We get to spend a lot more time talking about research design and methods, ethics in animal research and work on data computing and writing skills."
He walked PBS39 through a basic behavioral experiment.
"The first experiment that we’re running with the animals is called novel object recognition," Fields explained. "It’s a test of recognition memory. On the first day, you expose the subject to two identical objects. The second day, you expose the subject to one of the familiar objects from day one as well as to a new object, the novel object. You monitor to see which object the subject spends more time with. If they spend more time with the new object, that means their memory is functioning properly. Anyone would do that. If you’re familiar with something, you don’t care about it as much as something new. Animals think and learn in similar ways to humans."
Madison Matteo is a sophomore psychology major at Arcadia. She’s taking Fields’ virtual lab from her home in south Philadelphia.
"The experiments that we do are behavioral-based," Matteo told PBS39. "It’s really interesting to see how much you can learn from a GoPro perspective. We’re really taking advantage of technology, so that we can see things as first-hand as possible."
Students who take Fields’ lab are on various academic tracks including psychology, biology and neurology. He says he spends one to two days a week filming the lab videos. For all the work he’s putting in, he hopes the students will make the most of the experience.
"We always try to incorporate cutting-edge technology into our courses at Arcadia. This pandemic has accelerated that process — and I think for the best," said Fields. "At the end of the day, we really want them to become better critical thinkers. To be able to take information and process it critically and evaluate situations on their on. I think exposure to research really helps them to do that."
Watch the video version of this story in the player below.