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Peer-to-Peer Learning Delivers Big Dividends for All

June, 2019
  • Chemistry lab support technician Maikeal Gwargious helps a student in Chemistry Professor Dilip Patel's class.
    Chemistry lab support technician Maikeal Gwargious helps a student in Chemistry Professor Dilip Patel's class.
  • Biology lab support technician Thi Tran (center) assist students in Biology Professor Benjamin Benton's lab.
    Biology lab support technician Thi Tran (center) assist students in Biology Professor Benjamin Benton's lab
  • Chemistry lab support technician Kirols Mohareb works with student Joe Knight.
    Chemistry lab support technician Kirols Mohareb works with student Joe Knight
  • Recent QCC graduate Richard Smith (center) is one of the Biology lab support technicians.
    Recent QCC graduate Richard Smith (center) is one of the Biology lab support technicians.

At QCC all it takes are two simple words – STUDENT SUCCESS. One way in which the college is supporting its students in succeeding is through student lab support technicians. Earlier this year several QCC students became lab support technicians in the college’s biology and chemistry labs thanks to funding from the “Increasing Diversity in STEM” grant award, which the college received from the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiative (MBI) through funding provided by the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD).

These lab support technicians act as assistants to the faculty, helping to extend the reach of a professor by providing assistance to students during lab experiments. The students selected were chosen based on having successfully completed the course(s) themselves and for their ability and propensity to help other students.

“Lab techs are definitely helpful. They help take care of a lot of things and they know how to work everything,” said Professor of Chemistry Dilip Patel, who said all the lab support technicians have taken four semesters of chemistry (General Chemistry I and II and Organic Chemistry I and II).

Biology Professor Benjamin Benton said having lab support assistants enables him to help more students and share his workload, delivering students a peer learning perspective.

“Students feel more comfortable asking a peer a question,” he said.

Three QCC students, Lois Oduro Dompreh, Maikeal Gwargious and Kirols Mohareb help out in the chemistry labs of both Dilip Patel and Associate Professor of Chemistry Hirul Patel. Each of the lab assistants are immigrants from another country who came to the U.S. a few years ago. Mr. Gwargious and Mr. Mohareb are from Egypt and Ms. Dompreh is from Ghana. All three are expected to graduate next spring and plan to transfer to four-year institutions. Mr. Gwargious and Mr. Mohareb hope to be dentists, while Ms. Dompreh’s goal is to become a doctor.

According to Mr. Mohareb, he said the three were interested in being lab support technicians because they felt it would be a great opportunity to help students who may be struggling in chemistry.

“When we help them the first time they then can do it themselves the second time,” he said. “We assist students by helping them in the labs, and by helping them if they have any questions. We give them some tips about the labs that we used in the past. We also show them how to set up equipment.”

Helping students with courses the lab tech assistants have already taken has some dual benefits.

“I just took both organic chemistry courses and it helps to refresh my memory and helps me remember what I’ve learned,” Ms. Dompreh said, adding, “It also broadens my confidence.”

Another key aspect of the program is the camaraderie that the students feel with the lab techs.

“We communicate with the students like we do our own classmates, so they can trust us,” Mr. Mohareb said.

Biology lab support technician Thi Tran, who works in Mr. Benton’s lab, said she has learned a lot by being a lab assistant. A pre-pharmacy student who will be graduating in spring 2020, she plans to transfer to a four-year institution where she wants to major in either biology or biochemistry.

“This is really helpful for my own education. It’s helping to shape my decision and my future career,” she said. “This inspires me. I get to interact with the students and they have a lot of questions, which gets me to think a lot more.”

Biology lab support technician Richard Smith is a spring 2019 graduate in General Studies, Biotechnology Option. He is transferring to UMass Amherst in the fall and plans to major in biology. He said he has found this to be a very beneficial program.

“I like being a lab tech, it’s really fun. I like helping people,” he said, adding, “This is a resource I really could have used when I was a student here.”

Other lab technician assistants in the program included:

  • Maame Amoak-Dankwah – (Biology)
  • Joseph Knight (Biology)
  • Ashley Levy (Biology)
  • Daniel Matisoo (Biology)
  • Layal Hamze (Biology)
  • Nathaniel Wilson (Biology)
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