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Science resource aid serves as backbone for lab preparations

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Science resource aid serves as backbone for lab preparations

Vedha Nathan prepares materials for many science classes at the high school.

Vedha Nathan prepares materials for many science classes at the high school.

NINA ROGERS

Vedha Nathan prepares materials for many science classes at the high school.

NINA ROGERS

NINA ROGERS

Vedha Nathan prepares materials for many science classes at the high school.

Nina Rogers, Staff Writer

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Do you actually know who sets up the labs for your science class? A hint: it is probably not your science teacher.

Vedha Nathan, the high school’s resident science resource aid, has been working diligently at the school for the past two years. Her position is vital; without Nathan’s work, most science classes would cease to function.

Nathan’s vital role includes ordering necessary materials and preparing anything required for biology and chemistry labs. From pens, pencils and markers to chemicals and even living organisms, Nathan is the one ordering them and ensuring they end up in their proper place.

With a school of over 2,000 students, gathering the supplies required is no small task, and it is up to Nathan to organize it all.

“At the beginning of the year, there are hundreds of thousands of boxes sitting here for me to unpack,” Nathan said.

Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser was one of the staff members involved in hiring Nathan. He emphasized that on top of needing to have excellent organizational skills, resource aids need to have a general understanding of all the sciences offered at the high school, especially chemistry and biology.

Nathan fits this description perfectly. She holds a doctorate in biochemistry from Oklahoma State University and worked as a research staff member at Harvard University studying bacterial transport.

Along with an understanding of the sciences, Nathan must also be confident in her engineering and problem solving abilities. The materials used by hundreds of students are bound to break at some point, and when they do, they inevitably wind up in Nathan’s hands to be fixed.

“Recently, the AP Chemistry lab had all these broken pH meters which needed a lot of help,” Nathan said. “I take them apart, recondition them and make sure they are working. In many cases, if I don’t have the manual or I can’t look up the information, then I have to call the company to learn how to condition it.”

Nathan is also responsible for setting up materials for any upcoming labs in the chemistry and biology classes. If a class needs petri dishes with agar, Nathan mixes them. If they need amoebas, Nathan orders and prepares them in time for the lab. Recently, Nathan was tasked with making sugar solutions for a lab prior to winter break.

“I made liters and liters and liters of sugar solutions. I don’t know how many kilograms of sugar I used,” Nathan said. “It was everywhere.”

GRAPHIC BY SOFIA REYNOSO

Biology teacher Elizabeth Crane emphasized how important Nathan’s work is for not only her class, but for all teachers that perform labs on a semi-regular basis.

“It would be a lot more challenging. We would probably end up doing fewer labs that involved as much preparation because sometimes to prepare materials for a lab, it takes an hour or more. We just don’t have that much time in the day,” Crane said.

Even if teachers chose to do this extra work that Nathan usually handles, it would be at the expense of their students.

“I would have to choose between giving extra help to students or mixing solutions for a lab and it would be shame to have to turn students away or to simply not have enough time to do that kind of thing,” Crane said.

Wiser stressed the importance of Nathan’s job as well, accounting what it was like when he himself had to fill the position for a few weeks last year prior to Nathan being hired.

“I had to come in on the weekends, hope that the building was open on a Saturday and go through all of the supplies,” Wiser said. “We had to know exactly which vendor was responsible for sending which thing, which teacher wanted which thing, which lab room needed to get certain things, how to divide them up into all the different rooms and we had to get them all over the place. It’s a lot.”

Crane agreed that Nathan’s position is critical in the science department.

“I do think it is important to have students hear her name, understand her role and preferably meet her in person,” Crane said. “It is really important that students understand that materials don’t come out of thin air; solutions don’t mix themselves.”

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Science resource aid serves as backbone for lab preparations