When they're forced to teach remotely, some creativity may be necessary in order for professors to still deliver the education their students expect.

For students of an honors biology course at Rutgers University-Camden, that means setting up a home laboratory to study pain and addiction.

The "Neuroscience of the Opioid Epidemic" course, instructed by Nathan Fried and Edward Waddell, has students attempting to learn more about addiction among human beings, by running experiments on much simpler organisms — fruit flies.

To make this happen during a pandemic, all of the students have received a "lab in a box." Along with living fruit flies, the travel lab comes with a microscope, pipettes and other tools.

"We identified that there were some interesting research questions that students could pursue, all from the comfort of their home," Fried told New Jersey 101.5.

Fried's course consists mostly of first-year students who've never had to conduct research on their own. But he cites a "wonderful energy flow" related to this effort, similar to what he'd typically experience during an in-person class. The class gathers weekly on Zoom to discuss progress.

"Students are going back and forth, they are highly engaged, and you see the gears moving in their heads," Fried said.

Fried said he expects to continue the lab-in-a-box concept beyond the pandemic.

"Remote learning definitely has its challenges, but I kind of like this at home," said student Ashley Smigocki. "It's absolutely a great substitute."

Fried notes the global pandemic has also opened students up to opportunities to attend national and international research conferences, which have switched to a virtual format.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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