The ALESS Lab
About the Lab
The ALESS Lab is unique in being a science lab operated by a language program. The purpose of the ALESS course is to guide students in writing a science paper in English. As the vast majority of our first-year science students will go on to graduate research in a science program, this course guides them through the process of writing a paper in English that is especially relevant to their future needs. In order to write the paper, students carry out a simple experiment. The idea is not to acquire specialized knowledge, but rather for students to plan by themselves an empirical study using everyday materials, thereby engaging students actively in the kinds of thinking processes that lie behind scientific research papers. As first-year students normally have limited experience with hands-on empirical research, the purpose of the ALESS Lab is to assist students through all stages of the process: from planning and implementing the experiment to analyzing and interpreting the results.
Support in the lab is provided by teaching assistants who are themselves graduate students in physics, chemistry, and biology, all of whom are attached to research labs within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Importantly, the guidance students receive in the lab is not in the form of direct instruction. Rather, TAs explore ideas with students through discussion, as might be done in an actual lab meeting. In this sense, the ALESS Lab is not simply a place where students can conduct their experiments, but rather a research space where students can be supported throughout their ALESS course.