Setting: Histology and Pathology labs are always held with the entire class in the 410 Light Hall lab.
Structure: The format of these labs varies depending on the block and the day.
Histology lab: Dr. Pettepher or Dr. Bader often gives a pre-lab talk. They show some of the slides on the SmartBoard and annotate them as they talk about important features we should be looking for, and then we have the rest of the lab period to work alone or with our classmates at our table to go through the lab guide and look at the slides. In general, the pre-lab talk is the most valuable portion of the lab. The professors talk fast and it often feels like an information overload, but this is very high-yield material for exams and it pays off to focus and take good notes during this time.
Pathology lab, the class is often divided into groups of six with a schedule for the six groups posted in advance. The six groups rotate between six different activities, usually over a period of 2-3 two-hour lab blocks during the course of a week or two. These activities usually include organ recitals, self-directed microscopy, Virgil and self-directed learning.
Time Commitment: The time commitment for these labs is variable. Organ recitals do not require time outside of the designated lab time. The length of time that students spend on self-directed microscopy and Virgil vary from no time (since we aren’t tested on this material) to many hours. If you really want to use these as study tools, you will probably need more than the 1-2 hours of designated lab time to get through everything. The amount of time spent on Virgil/self-directed microscopy really just depends on your individual learning style and goals and the type of material you like to study from. I’d recommend doing everything for the first block or two, and then eliminating things later if they do not seem to be worth your time. The time commitment for histology is also variable. If you like to prepare before class, the lab guide is available to read in advance (posted on VSTAR) – this is personal preference. Outside of class, the time commitment is very variable – it just depends on your study style and whether you are a visual learner. However, histology is important. The material from histology lab is emphasized on exams and each exam has its own dedicated histology section. Make sure you take the time to learn it.
Just to clarify: you must physically be in the lab during histology sessions (no mediasite for the prelab lecture available) and for organ recitals. Virgil and self-directed microscopy can be done in the lab and you are welcome to sit in lab at one of the tables and work on it, but most people use this as free time and do these activities later in the block or from home.
Note Taking Tips: Histology lab is one of the hardest classes to take notes, as the professors talk very fast and circle and erase things on slides faster than anyone can keep up. Some people like to print out the lab manual in advance and take notes relevant to each slide in the margins, so that they can go back to that slide later. Many people try to follow along with the professors by pulling up the slides on their laptop, taking screenshots, and using Paint or Powerpoint to circle and label the slides the way the professors do. This is tricky, as the professors are using a Smartboard and it is hard to keep up on a laptop where you can’t draw directly on the slides like the professor. However, I have personally found that this has still been the best method for me, in addition to following along with Dr. Pettepher’s powerpoint supplements (posted with the lab information on VSTAR) – often the slides are already at least partially labeled in her supplement, so if you open that, you can just add a few more notes, labels, and circles, rather than starting from scratch with screenshots of every slide. Another major help with note taking is to share notes! Our class has a shared Google Drive folder organized by course and sub-organized by learning modality. It is a huge help when multiple people upload their annotated histology slides - even if no one catches everything, between several people all the important identifications should be there. It is also important to remember that anything important gets said more than once. Although the professors fly through material in the pre-lab talk, they will emphasize important points when they go around between tables during the group work lab time. The important histology is also usually covered in corresponding lectures, and the 7 am review sessions are a great opportunity to make sure you’ve caught all of the important information! It also all written in your lab manual and you can find anything online – even histology!
How to succeed:
Histology: Histology often seems intimidating at first - everything looks like the same purple dots.