The results of lab work for these former BYU students include learning, laughter, and love.
A Job with Benefits
By Laura LaRee Jackson Davis (BA ’87), Maple Valley, Wash.
Math was fun for me in high school, and a math education major seemed a perfect fit—until I encountered calculus at 8 a.m. on my first day at BYU. The professor, excited about the honors section, said we’d be starting in chapter 3. I was in over my head, but rather than switch sections, I joined two other students who frequented our professor’s office for help. As we became regulars, he became inspired and gave us directions to the math lab. For me the recommendation was nothing less than life changing. I had renewed hope for my major.
Soon my dream job was to become a math lab assistant. I was finally hired in my junior year. There I met a cheerful, good-looking guy who had most of the same shifts I did. After a couple of weeks of working together, he taped a note on my time card asking me out. Soon we were walking home together after our evening shifts. It was one thing to be paid for something I enjoyed so much, but the benefit of meeting my husband of 19 years amazes me still.
A Change of Heart Rate
By Lorin D. Welker (B ’75), Aiea, Hawaii
In the late 1960s, I had a biology lab in the Maeser Building. One day we were using electricity to cause frog and toad muscles to relax and contract. The lab assistant decided to demonstrate the effects of stimuli on a student. He asked for a male volunteer to lie down on a table with electrodes attached to his ankles and arms so the assistant could measure his heart rate and blood pressure while a stimulus—a kiss—was applied. I had run track for several years and was able to control my breathing and heart rate to some degree. So I took the challenge.
After I lay down and was connected up, the instructor asked a female volunteer to give me a kiss. I concentrated on my breathing and heart rate as she kissed me, and as a result, there was no response. Another volunteer tried. Still no response. So the lab assistant adjusted the electrodes and equipment and requested yet another volunteer and still another. But the response was the same—nothing. Finally, one young lady took me on as a challenge and planted one on me that generated the appropriate change in heart rate and blood pressure.
Several of the volunteers had seemed embarrassed when they failed to elicit a response. Now it was my turn to be embarrassed as I admitted my ability to control my heart rate and breathing. Although my original intent had been to cause the experiment to fail, I was not disappointed that the process had been prolonged. And I was able to get several dates that probably would not have been available to me otherwise.
By Jana Burt Ballard (BS ’02), Saratoga Springs, Utah
One of my favorite classes at BYU was Zoology 260, Elementary Human Anatomy. This class required study of cadavers in the anatomy lab.
Late one evening I was in the lab with some classmates. We were studying the musculature of the lower leg and foot. In an attempt to follow the muscles of the calf to their connection at the back of the leg, one of my labmates lifted the leg slightly out of the bag so we could get a better look.
Just as my classmate did this, a student custodian walked in. Initially, she made to excuse herself since we were studying, but upon viewing the emaciated foot sticking out of the bag, her face turned a pale green as her expression changed from one of disinterest to wide-eyed horror. With a sickly sounding “Oh,” she turned and fled the room. We quickly returned the foot to its proper resting place.
After that, I thought it might be wise to post a sign: “CAUTION: Lab in use. Entering unawares may result in surprise illnesses.”
Instant Message Connections
By Crystal R. Leckie (BS ’04), Greenville, S.C.
I never owned a computer at BYU, so I spent a lot of time in the computer lab. One evening I was frantically trying to complete an assignment for my cooking class. I needed some recipes from home for a small cookbook, so I decided to instant message my sister Sara in South Carolina for help. I told her which recipes I needed and then left for a class, intending to return for the recipes later. In my hurry, I neglected to sign off of Instant Messenger before I left.
Meanwhile, another student, Kenny, sat down at my computer and continued “my” conversation with Sara. It was hard for him to convince Sara that she wasn’t really talking to me anymore, but he eventually did and they briefly got to know one another. He told her that our mom’s roll recipe sounded good and encouraged her to make him some when she came to BYU in the fall. I returned to the lab later to talk to my sister. She laughed and said she didn’t believe it was me. Incidentally, Kenny was still in the lab, so I sneaked a peak at the computer I had used previously to tell Sara what he looked like. I didn’t introduce myself at the time, though.
As it turns out, Sara did go out with Kenny when she came to BYU. She didn’t marry him, but she introduced him to our good friend Marlyse from South Carolina, whom he eventually married. Who knew what my mistake that night would come to?
By Robin Montgomery Watson (BA ’04), Seattle, Wash.
My physical science class included an unusual assignment: check out a scale from the physical science lab, get on the elevator, and chart my weight at various points as the elevator traveled. I chose a scale and headed off to find an elevator. I figured I’d wait until I had the elevator to myself to do the readings, but as my time ran short, I set down the scale and started charting despite a continually changing audience. In the end, I found myself rather enjoying the funny looks on people’s faces when the elevator door opened and they saw me standing on a scale and frantically scribbling.
Several semesters later as I was riding the elevator in the Eyring Science Center, I noticed a couple of students get on with scales in hand. I just smiled.
Of Bears and Worms
By Mara Callister Meservy (BA ’82), Las Vegas, Nev.
When selecting a major as a freshman, I rejected my favorite subject, English, and decided to follow my older sister’s steps into zoology—in hopes of finding a premed returned missionary. Alas, my first lab class punished me for not having purer motives.
Our first dissection was a tapeworm. With utter laissez-faire toward such a lowly specimen, I brought a bag of fresh BYU Bookstore cinnamon bears to lab to share. The smell was heavenly next to the stench of ether and preservative. While my lab partner gathered a worm and supplies, I popped a little bear into my mouth. As we began to work, I just couldn’t stop eating those little bears, and my partner didn’t want any.
Back at Deseret Towers that evening my stomach hurt. Suddenly, it occurred to me—no one else ate food while they were dissecting! I just knew I had contaminated myself and was now growing a tapeworm inside my body. With terror and tears, I phoned the health center. What relief I felt to learn they had an excellent parasitologist on campus. He quickly reassured me that I couldn’t contract a parasite from dead worms. He didn’t even laugh.
Tapeworm or not, that lab class had a lasting effect on me. By the next semester I had changed majors and eventually became a journalist—a field in which it’s always safe to eat cinnamon bears while dissecting your story on a computer.