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Struggling with Lab?

  1. Jan 16, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I have trouble with labs in general; it was the hardest part of organic chem for me, but I did get better through bio and the last quarter of physics. Still, my "better" is not great, and I always do better in the lecture section of the class.

    I'm taking a 3-quarter introductory physics course this year, and last quarter the lab went fine (I received an A) because my partner was fast enough to work the cmputer and figure out what we were doing, and our TA was very helpful. I write quickly and can easily figure out the concepts and put together reports when I can think clearly and am adquately prepared for the session, but there is only so much preparation I can do beforehand, especially because the TA often changes the directions a bit from the out-dated lab manuals. So basically my partner did most of the experiment and figuring out how to record the data, make the tables/graphs, and I piggy- backed onto her and was faster at figuring out what we were ultimately trying to determine, what the "big picture" of the experiment was, etc.

    I'm not confident about this quarter though, and wanted to cry through lab yesterday. My partner knew what she was doing and the lab went well, but again I kind of uselessly stood aside while she did most of the experiment. I don't know why, but even when I read the manual a lot before I come it, it is still so difficult for me to figure out what to do and everyone else does it faster than me and in most of my labs, mmy partner and I have always finished last - because of me. My TA is also less friendly and helpful this quarter, so it's more independent work, which I struggle with because I just feel lost.

    The big problem is that everyone was partnered already because they signed up with friends, and this lab only requires partners because of the limited availability of set-ups. We still all do our own individual lab reports, etc. which are due by the end of class and difficult to complete in the allotted time, even with a partner. I only had a partner yesterday because she was making up this lab, but she won't normally be in this lab, so I am the last person left. I'm petrified of being alone for our next lab session, and I don't think that I can handle it by myself because I'm not good at this in general and even for people who are, it takes two people to get everything finished in time. But I dn't want to ask to be a pair of three with someone because I don't want to slow them down, and because there is adequate lab space for me to have my own individual set-up so if I don't work individually, there will be three people to one set-up and a whole set of empty equipment that I was supposed to be using. I also have social anxiety in terms of choosing other people to partner with, and I'm not even sure if my TA would allow me to join another group if asked so that I am not working alone.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on whether I could ask to pair with two other people in a group of three, or how to be better prepared for lab on my own? I hate that lab feels like such a traumatic experience for me, because I know I am intellectually capable of it.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2015 #2

    Stephen Tashi

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    Science Advisor

    The advice might depend on the particular lab and the equipment you use - and whether you are already familiar with the equipment.

    If it's unfamiliar equipment, I suggest partnering with two other people. Just endure the feelings of inadequacy. (Most people don't devote a significant amount of time to thinking about other people's virtues or deficiencies. The spend their time thinking about themselves.)
  4. Jan 16, 2015 #3
    What class is it? It sounds like it might be E&M, since that's usually the second physics class in most sequences. In that case, most of the equipment is very complicated, so it's normal to feel like that :)
  5. Jan 16, 2015 #4
    Oh, thank you both for saying that! This is E&M, and it is unfamiliar equipment, so I feel better about reacting the way I did. HOpefully the TA will let me join another pair.
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