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Lab expansion gives students room to grow at Missouri Southern State University

Snake Lab Expansion
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Snake Lab Expansion

JOPLIN, Mo. - Students are taking advantage of the newly expanded snake lab at Missouri Southern State University, and reptilian research is picking up speed.

For the past three years, students and snakes have been coming together in the name of science at this little lab at MSSU, so much so that there's a waiting list.

"I would say, 'Hey, can I join your snake lab yet?' and I had to wait until some people were graduated, that way there was enough room, and finally I was able to my senior year," said pre-vet major Janee Cowen.

Space has been an issue for the lab, which nearly reached capacity with 117 snakes. Students could only work individually with their professor, David Penning.

"I'd have five or six students one at a time, so it'd be 'Hey, Tuesday is your day. We've got 6 hours and we've gotta cram this in because Wednesday, the other student is using the facilities,'" explained Penning.

Before, students were limited to a space that was standing room only, but now they have a second room, a 250% increase from the previous lab area.

"Everything was just cramped and now that everything is in here, 'I'm like how did this even fit in there?' But it's so nice. I can actually walk around and not trip on people," said Cowen.

The extra room is changing the way the lab operates, allowing students to work together through the research process.

"We have the ability for everybody to be doing their own stuff. We have stations for equipment. We have stations for computers. People can be cleaning and working on animal husbandry while data processing," said Penning.

Through snakes, and an improved space with new equipment, students are slithering towards success.

"The students are doing things I was doing year two of my PHD. So, they're doing really outstanding stuff their second year of college and that gives them this competitive edge for med school, grad school, veterinary school, things like that," Penning stated.

"I feel like if I was anywhere else, I wouldn't get this experience and it's just really nice that they did this for us," expressed Cowen.

Penning says that students have earned about $20,000 in grants for equipment since the lab's creation.

He looks forward to seeing the lab and students continue to grow.

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