Department Highlight: Science

Matthew Fisher

Matt Fisher

Ready to analyze DNA from viruses? OCCC offers science students hands-on research and expanded courses, thanks to Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund.

There will be added excitement and curiosity beginning Fall of 2021 for OCCC science students. Why? Because they will be engaged in real-world experiments and hands-on research, using modern laboratory equipment, which includes digital sensors and probs to collect and analyze DNA from viruses.

Matt Fisher, chair of OCCC’s Science Department, is dedicated to his mission of expanding science courses and provide for state-of-the-arts laboratory research experiences at OCCC. “When we provide students with hands-on learning, they are better trained as scientists,” Matt said. “I want students to have laboratory experiences and develop skills that equal or surpass what students get at a large university,” continued Matt.

In order to realize goals, Matt Fisher needed to raise necessary funding.  That’s when the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund (STCCF) stepped in to help.

Thanks to the generosity of STCCF, Matt received a $19,000 grant to purchase modern laboratory equipment for biology and chemistry courses at OCCC. Matt is enthusiastic about how the funding will provide students with engaging, hands-on course work as well as offering expanded science courses.

“Students need chemistry. It’s base work for most science fields,” Matt explained.  Beginning Fall of 2021, thanks to the STCCF grant funding, OCCC will offer students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) cohort the opportunity to pursue a year-long sequence of chemistry courses necessary to pursue degrees. “

Matt estimates there will be approximately 24 students in each STEM cohort but hopes that will grow in numbers as additional grant funding is available.

But there is more exciting news!

For biology students, as part of the STCCF grant, Matt is collaborating with the distinguished Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

In collaboration with HHMI, biology students will use the newly acquired wireless digital sensors and probes to “collect and record data with computers in real time, providing them active learning with authentic lessons,” added Matt.

The students will collect and analyze DNA from viruses that infect bacteria called bacteriophages. An additional exciting part of this research will be the interaction with other students throughout the nation conducting similar research. Students will share their analysis in a national databank.

At the end of the school year, one lucky student will be selected from Matt’s biology class to travel to the East Coast to attend a national symposium and present their research findings. What a wonderful opportunity for an OCCC student interested in the field of science!

What’s next for OCCC’s Science Department in the future? Matt wants to offer physics and diverse courses that provide research experiences. He wants others to remark, “Wow, you did that at a community college!”

As we know, funding helps to increase student opportunities. “I appreciate the Siletz Charitable Contribution Fund and the fact that they support OCCC’s programming,” Matt shares.

Thank you for the generous funding from the STCCF and the many other donors who continue to support OCCC.