BioClub: Linking students, faculty and science

By Sarah Dillard

The idea of a science club might conjure up pictures of studious scientists in white lab coats and goggles, hunched intently over microscopes and too busy to crack a smile, let alone laugh. For members of the BioClub at Macalester, nothing could be further from the truth. Founded two years ago by students interested in forming a tighter connection within the Biology department, BioClub aims to build community and provide activities for science students. Every Thursday at 12:45 p.m. the group hosts informal BioTeas in Olin Rice that lure students in with baked goods and camaraderie. BioClub co-chair Meghan Davies ’12 believes the organization is a great way to get people interested in the science, and also a place to relax. “BioClub is for everyone, whether you’re a hard-core biologist or have an interest in the science at all,” Davies said. In the past, BioClub has brought their love of biology out into the Twin Cities community. Two years ago they worked with a women’s prison to host a lab for prisoners. More recently they have partnered with the Laura Jeffries Academy, an all-female charter school for grades five through eight, to create lesson plans for students. This year, BioClub hopes to expand its reach into the neighboring community with more outreach programs. Co-chair Joel Soma ‘12 hopes to engage people and spark their interest in biology. “We want to be involved with smaller events that have a large impact,” Soma said. BioClub also plans to work closely with faculty, help organize departmental picnics and inspire one other. As the current leaders prepare for graduation this June, they hope to inspire others to take the reins. “We want to increase momentum,” Davies said. Faculty support is essential for members of the BioClub who hope to build stronger relationships with professors, and get to know them outside of the classroom. Because topics at meetings and events rarely focus solely on biology, it’s easy to get to know professors. This sense of community not only makes time spent in the classroom more fun, it has also led to research opportunities and internships for many students. Macalester’s Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area field station, located 17 miles south of campus, has been the site of many BioClub functions, including last winter’s sledding and snowshoeing extravaganza. This fall, the club also plans to host a scavenger hunt there that takes place on the prairie landscape and lake. Perhaps the most ambitious goal of the club is to gain recognition for Macalester’s biology department from Tri Beta, the national biological honor society that focuses specifically on undergraduates. To become a member school, the department must pass an inspection of the facilities. BioClub is waiting to hear back about when the inspection has been scheduled for. Membership in TriBeta would lead to more scholarship and greater research opportunities. “It would be a great honor to have a stamp of approval from such an organization,” Soma explained. Because the club doesn’t host regular meetings, it’s easy to be involved. “Your involvement is up to you,” said Soma. “We’re here to have fun.”