Manifest Boston Stories

Manifest Mornings: A Conversation with Robert Lue

Written by Lindsay Gearheart | Jun 11, 2020 3:34:10 PM

After taking a brief programming break, Manifest Mornings are back with even more inspiration and connection to keep you motivated. This week, we were joined by Robert Lue, PhD, who introduced us to LabXchange, a free online learning platform focused on the life sciences built at Harvard University and supported by The Amgen Foundation. 

Robert is an accomplished scientist who has been at Harvard since 1988, first as a grad student and later as a Professor of the Practice of Molecular and Cellular Biology. But before he found the purpose for his career, he faced a crossroads during his senior year of college: he could either pursue his passion for painting or science. This became such a crisis that he took a year off to conduct lab research by day and paint by night. Ultimately, science won out, with Robert determining that it's easier to do studio art on the side than practice science on the side.

Despite choosing to move away from his artistic pursuits, he's had the opportunity to flex his creative muscles in 2012 when he became the founding faculty director of HarvardX, Harvard’s online education initiative. After Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) — or free online courses available for anyone to enroll — were received favorably by the world, Robert and Harvard decided to take the idea of online education further. Robert was awarded a grant from the Amgen Foundation to build LabXchange, with the intention of personalizing the online learning and teaching experience.

We learned a lot about the LabXchange platform from Robert during a live demonstration. Here are just some of the things Robert and LabXchange are doing:

  • Enabling everyone and anyone to learn about science. As a free platform, LabXchange is accessible to anyone anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. The idea is to unlock learning regardless of who you are and where you are. While initially intended for high schoolers through college students, the platform is now used by students at all stages, including middle schoolers and working adults.
  • Putting the learner and the educator in the driver seat. One of the major differences between a platform like LabXchange and a MOOC is the power LabXchange gives to the students and teachers. The story that’s told in a LabXchange course is one where any educator can adapt to a specific location, their perspective, or the individuals they want to foreground. This personalization aspect allows for a more honest, open, and inclusive environment for scientific education.
  • Teaching through process rather than technology. Because technology in the life sciences changes so rapidly, LabXchange focuses on the scientific process rather than the specific technologies and equipment that a scientist may use. The process of discovery is central to the platform's method of teaching.
  • Giving parents (and students) the tools to teach. LabXchange isn't simply for traditional teachers and their students. Anyone can create a class or pathway, including someone who wants to teach themselves or a parent who wants to educate his or her children. A user can also designate themselves as a mentor for other students.

Robert closed out the session with a quote: “For every individual, your life is a startup that never ends.” We all need to have the skills to boostrap and push ourselves to succeed.

Catch up on the conversation by pressing play on the recording from today's Manifest Mornings event with Robert Lue below.

We'd love for you to keep the conversation going on Slack or our social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram with #ManifestMornings). Below are some of our favorite comments from this session: