March 17, 2021
Xplorers’ series on YouTube reveals what life is like inside a university lab
What’s it really like to work inside the lab of a world-class scientist?
That question is the focus of a recorded conversation among four university students in Georgia, all of whom work for pioneering researchers.
Now, their conversation has been edited into short videos – each 2 to 4 minutes long – and rolled out as “Xplorers,” a YouTube series aimed at students from middle school to sophomore year in college.
In segments like “What would surprise someone about working in a lab?” and “What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome?” the four students talk candidly about their experiences – as well as the myths and misperceptions that prevail about university research.
“Research is not full of these ‘science robots’ who just live in the lab,” says Ana Cheng of Emory University. “It’s normal people. We know each other, hang out together and have fun together.”
“I thought you had to be super-smart to work in a lab, and having that thought during college scared me,” says Oluwagbemisola “Gbemi” Aderibigbe of Georgia Tech and Emory. “It made me think I wasn’t good enough. But I now realize we’re all smart in different ways.”
Joining Ana and Gbemi in the videos are Miguel Ochoa of Georgia Tech and Olatomiwa “Bif” Bifarin of the University of Georgia.
The idea for the video series emerged from an early 2020 dialogue among GRA Eminent Scholars, the acclaimed scientists GRA helps recruit to Georgia’s universities. That dialogue centered on actions the Scholars might take to increase the number of underrepresented minorities engaging in university research.
A recent National Science Foundation study showed that Black, Hispanic and Native American people comprise 31% of the U.S. population but just 11% of the science and engineering workforce. And the 2019 American Community Survey revealed that women comprised just 27 percent of STEM employees, compared to 48 percent of all workers.
“The GRA Eminent Scholars came up with some good ideas about contributions they could make to addressing the need for more diversity and inclusion in research,” says GRA President Susan Shows. “Just as their dialogue was beginning, the pandemic hit. But one tactic they saw as immediately achievable was an inspiring video series.”
GRA is now promoting the series to universities and science teachers in middle schools and high schools across Georgia, as well as through programs through partner organizations.