A new science paradigm for an interdisciplinary world

By Gigi Marino

While the name X-Labs might evoke Mystique or Magneto, the X in question actually stands for cross-disciplinary. The framework behind the project is to provide undergraduates in the sciences — those studying chemistry, biology, and physics — with real-world lab experiences where different disciplines interact on a regular basis. Students must take classes in all three areas, and the undergraduates are supervised by graduate students. X-Labs director and biology professor David Julian says, “This is a unique approach to teaching the general biology, chemistry, and physics laboratory knowledge and skills in an integrated curriculum.”

young male student in white coat writes equations on whiteboard
Science-focused students in Liberal Arts and Sciences get a jump-start on their research careers in the X-Lab Project. Matthew Lester

One of the program’s main goals is to enrich the undergraduate research experience for students in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Getting them into the lab as early as their freshman year in a mentored situation helps build both skill and confidence. Students enroll in the X-Lab for two semesters. In addition to honing their lab skills, they also are tasked with using critical thinking to envision projects, develop hypotheses, and use scientific methods to prove those hypotheses.

“We are trying to help all students — especially those who identify as pre-health but have a fear of physical science courses — acquire hands-on experience with chemistry and physics concepts in the context of biomedical applications.”