For college students studying science, doing labwork as part of their classes is a vital way to learn research skills and better understand concepts from lectures.
That presents a challenge for schools that are operating remotely during the coronavirus pandemic — so some biology programs are mailing brains, eyeballs, and even entire fetal pigs to their students so they can dissect them at home.
At Lafayette College, neuroscience students enrolled in a physiology course recently received packages in the mail that contained preserved sheep brains, which are commonly chosen by schools due to their close resemblance to human brains. Then, neuroscientist and psychologist Luis Schettino — who, in the interest of transparency, was one of my professors when I attended Lafayette — guided his students over a video call as they dissected the brains.
“To be honest, there is no substitute for having the students be all within the lab where we can communicate more directly and I can be sure I am showing them the location of the [brain] structures in person rather than through video,” Schettino told Futurism. “What I mean is that this is, of course, a second-best solution.”
Schettino stressed that the neuroscience department goes to great lengths to make sure students can do their labwork safely. For instance, everything in the package is non-toxic, and he instructs students on proper safety measures like wearing protective equipment and properly handling tools.
Lafayette College isn’t the only school mailing animal parts to students.
Stanford Medical School, for example, mailed sheep brains and pig hearts to students in its clinical summer internship program.
And at the University of Arizona, sophomore physiology and medical sciences student Julie Taraborrelli expected to see a scalpel, scissors, and the other usual dissection tools when she opened her package, she told BuzzFeed News. Instead, she was surprised to unpack a fetal pig, cow’s eye, and sheep’s brain. She made an unboxing video of the whole kit — and shared it to TikTok, where it went viral.
“We didn’t really know what was [going to be] in the box,” Taraborrelli told the CBC. “I just didn’t expect anything like that. I would have never expected them to ship us, through the mail, real animal parts.”
READ MORE: This Student Was Shipped A Whole Fetal Pig Because 2020 Is The Weirdest School Year Ever [BuzzFeed News]
More on higher education: The Mental Healthcare Crisis Coming to American Universities