New club aims to improve students' pipetting, laboratory skills

Taylor Ladner, Kyla Asher and Brooke Bain, members of the new Pipetting Club, practice laboratory techniques in the Herzer Food Science Building.

New to Mississippi State University, the Pipetting Club will allow students to practice laboratory skills outside of the classroom.

The Pipetting Club is an emerging organization on the MSU campus that was started this semester. Taylor Ladner, Pipetting Club secretary and a junior microbiology and biochemistry double major, said the club’s goals are to help students learn a variety of laboratory skills for research and form connections with other peers looking to develop science and research skills.

Pipetting, put simply, is a method in which a slender graduated tube, a pipette, is used to measure and transfer small amounts of liquid from one container to another. 

Katie Evans, president of the Pipetting Club and a junior microbiology major, said the problem with using a pipette is that not many science majors get the experience of using one in a laboratory setting, especially one that is automatic. Also, using a pipette aseptically to avoid transferring bacteria from one area to another can be a challenge for a student to perform correctly.

“Using these particular kinds of pipettes like the automatic ones, people don’t learn how to do that. It’s not something you’re taught in a class, at least not in any lower-level science class here at State. So, when people start getting research experience, a lot of times there’s this assumption that this is so basic, that you already know how to do this,” Evans said.

Ladner claims that although the name of the club suggests that students will only be working on pipetting, there are many other techniques that students will develop in the club that are useful in a laboratory setting, such as using Gram staining to identify bacteria, using streaking media to isolate bacteria and making media for lab use. 

Evans said the club will have meetings twice every month, with half of the meetings scheduled to be held at the Meat, Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory where students will be able to practice laboratory skills, and the other half scheduled to be held in a classroom setting where various speakers will present information on careers in laboratory research or different research-based graduate schools.

Ladner said the club will benefit many students interested in applying for graduate school who may not learn the necessary lab skills in their undergraduate science classes.

“In a lot of the science fields, you need lab skills for graduate school, so if you don’t have any experience and you go to graduate school, you’re going to be learning how to do that while you’re trying to conduct the research. But, we can help students learn how to use lab skills, how to use lab material and how to use proper methods, so that they don’t have to worry about that later … so it gives them a better chance of getting into graduate school,” Ladner said.

Ladner also said the club plans to go on field trips to professional schools and research laboratories for students to experience real-world research techniques in the science field and how the techniques are used by professionals.

To encourage participation, Ladner said the club will hold mock competitions at the end of every semester in the Meat, Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory as a fun way to allow students to compete against others using skills they have learned in the Pipetting Club. Some of the competitions test skills such as who is the fastest pipetter, who is the most accurate pipetter and who can perform the best Gram staining. Students will also compete to see who can create the best agar art, an art form where bacteria is used to make designs on media plates.

Kyla Asher, treasurer of the Pipetting Club and junior microbiology major, said the club is inclusive to all majors but it targets those who are interested in research methods and want to hone in on their laboratory skills with other students interested in the same research techniques. 

Overall, she hopes the club will encourage the community within the science field at MSU.

“Our overall goal is to promote Mississippi State students in their ability to gain research and laboratory skills while also helping foster connections between students with an interest in scientific research,” Asher said. “We are looking for anybody that would like to join, no specific major, just anyone that wants to learn more about pipetting and research.”

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