This January's MIT course 5.301 Chemistry Lab Techniques began just like any other. Designed to familiarize freshmen with lab procedures that are commonplace in chemistry labs, the course incentivizes passing with the promise of a spring- or summertime job in an MIT research lab. But this year's class was in for a surprising twist.
"They called a lab meeting," says now-sophomore chemistry major Hansol Kang, "and told us they were going to film our entire class."
And film they did. Advertised as a reality-TV-like Web series, ChemLab Boot Camp follows 14 freshmen as they struggle to successfully carry out experiments, compete to grow the largest single crystal (Kang secretly wonders whether this was thrown in to add "drama" worthy of any Web series), and show the world a glimpse of a month in the life of an MIT chemistry student.
Watch the trailer here:
But the footage didn't stop rolling at the doors of the lab. Students alternated taking home a flip cam so that they could film themselves talking about how their day in the lab went, their lives outside of the lab, and any other juicy gossip that fit the reality-TV bill.
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"Being on camera and sharing your personal life can get awkward, mine definitely was!" Kang says with a laugh. "But it was fun, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it definitely got us all talking and brought us together. I was amazed how close we all got in a few weeks. I guess we were together every day, eight hours a day. And everyone passed, thank goodness!"
Kang got a job working in a biochemistry lab. But it wasn't all serious competition and clawing to get the coveted jobs. Kang and one of her friends organized a fancy dress-up dinner at the Cheesecake Factory that all the students attended, along with professor John J. Dolhun and a teaching assistant.
And the class is planning a reunion to whip out the popcorn and watch the first episode together when it airs this fall. The Newscripts gang plans to do the same!