Student Advisory Board on Science- Meeting Summary, 10-31-08

During its first meeting, the Student Advisory Board on Science discussed a wide range of topics, focusing on students’ awareness and participation in the changes taking place within the sciences at large. The issue of sustainability is perhaps one of the more notable (or at least noticeable) examples of the campus-wide changes currently taking place. While students generally feel well-exposed to the issues of global conservation, it may be beneficial to provide more concrete evidence describing the specific impact of these efforts. The discussion accordingly turned to the issues of inter-departmental advertising, specifically in reference to the Center for the Environment. Students are already inundated by e-mail lists and extracurricular websites, so communication between departments could benefit from a modification of Harvard’s existing online resources rather than the creation of new ones (i.e. making my.harvard.edu more use-friendly like yalestation.org). The committee subsequently turned to issues concerning undergraduate research experience. Though an increasing number of students seem to become involved in research earlier in their college careers, there are still challenges in terms of advising and exposing students to the innumerable opportunities that Harvard has to offer. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of resources, such as the Harvard Undergraduate Research Association and the Advising Fortnight, so these concerns do not necessarily need to be addressed through increased bureaucratic control. Rather, students may benefit from increased communication with the labs themselves. These relations could be improved, for example, by getting post-docs more connected to the college and providing sophomore advising that is more pertinent to the students’ fields of concentration. Students furthermore express both excitement and concern over the expansions taking place in Allston and the Northwest Building. While the state-of-the-art facilities are undoubtedly an educational asset, undergraduates feel as if they have not been consulted and seem unsure of what exactly the buildings are being used for. These uncertainties may best be addressed at this point by creating a focus group of students currently using the Northwest Building and/or updating a survey on undergraduate research experience as a whole.

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