In case you missed it, this week’s Bio Matters column in The Oklahoman focused on the biotechnology program at Tulsa Community College and how it opened doors for more educational opportunities for one of its graduates. Here’s a link to the column.
In researching for the column, I spent a wonderful day in Tulsa visiting both the TCC biotech labs with program director Dr. Diana Spencer and across town at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences with Dr. Ken Miller. He is Professor and Chairman of OSU’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology.
Both instructors gave me some great insights into their programs and how the educational community in Tulsa works together to build biotech education in the region. In fact, nine institutions belong to the Tulsa Area Bioscience Education and Research Consortium. I’ll write about that in a future column.
Meanwhile, Dr. Spencer gave me a great tour of the TCC laboratories, and because of space reasons much of what she told me didn’t make it into the Bio Matters column. So, here is more of her insight:
On why she left a long-time high school teaching career at Jenks High School to pursue a Ph.D. and, ultimately, become a college professor: “The No. 1 reason is that I love the science, I really love research and investigations and wanted to do more of that. I got my master’s at Tulsa University and that was good. But I really fell in love with the DNA sciences. What happened to me is that the OSU Center for Health Sciences started that Ph.D. program in biosciences. I was one of their first Ph.D. graduates.”
On what she expects her biotech students to do after completing their education – “They are primarily going to work in bioscience research labs. To get hired in a research lab, you pretty much have to have your master’s if you are going to get to create ideas and see them through to fruition. We train these students to design experiments and see them through. We want them to ask the questions, solve the problems. We’re trying to make scientists out of them.”
On the challenge of recruiting students for the TCC biotech program: “We have to define what biotech, bioscience is. This is what I fight. Every student that comes to TCC knows about health careers because they see it. They know about pharmacists because they see it. They don’t see scientists working in their labs. I think it’s a responsibility for working scientists to reach out so that students can see their passion and their joys in the lab. I’ll talk to people standing on the corner about bioscience and this program.”
On the success that 48-year-old TCC biotech grad Armond Swift has had since completing the program. He’s entering graduate school at Oklahoma State University this fall: “We were the right place at the right time for him.”