Blending entrepreneurship with scientific research

GitaBangeraGita Bangera is a member of BC’s tenured faculty, the chair of life sciences and the assistant dean of science. She began work at BCC part time in 2004 and obtained tenure in early 2010 after two years of running a specialized research class. Bangera accepted additional responsibilities as the new dean of undergraduate research and experiential learning in late April and will officially assume the title in July.
The creation of this new position is part of a movement within the college to extend beyond the scope of the science department. Bangera explained, “What we want to do is connect students, to make learning as much a reflection of what their life would be like in their chosen careers.” Scientific research is only one part of this. Bangera believes that one of the greatest aspects of BC is its “entrepreneurial culture… If you have a good idea you can go convince somebody and then go try it.” The recently-released strategic plan draft emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary studies, undergraduate research and experiential learning, all of which fall under Bangera’s domain as dean, she will focus on finding faculty who are interested in incorporating research into the curriculum and give them the support and resources needed to accomplish their goals.
In 2007, Bangera participated in writing a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation. Bellevue College’s application beat out four-year colleges and universities, the money acquired went on to fund ComGen, the Community College Genomics Research Initiative. Utilizing the funding and prestige associated with ComGen, Bangera created BIO 275, “Laboratory Methods in Genomics.” The only prerequisite is BIO 160, or a 4 or 5 on the high school AP biology test. In this class, students “get the experience of being scientists,” performing graduate-level research sequencing the genome of Pseudomonas fluorecens, a bacterium that provides a potential solution to take-all, a fungal disease that threatens cereal crops such as wheat and barley. Students work with DNA provided by the USDA, uncovering new information in an independent research environment.
The pilot class for a research program in the chemistry department will launch this summer quarter. Taught by Richard Glover and Sonya Doucette, CHEM 272 will give students the opportunity to “get experience with research before they go on to a four-year college.” The only prerequisite is the first general chemistry course, CHEM 161. In three hours three days a week, students will collect samples from the environment and study them with mass spectrometers. Glover mentioned that students will likely check “on the discharge that the college itself produces, the most impact that we could probably have is on our own college and our own backyard.” Through designing and producing new research, students will gain valuable work experience, perhaps helping them get their foot in the door of research laboratories beyond BC.
In BC’s recently released strategic plan draft, one of the priority initiatives to “be exceptional” as an institution is to “encourage and share best practices in research-based learning design and implementation.” Robert Viens, dean of sciences, stated that the office of the new dean was “developed parallel” to the strategic plan, but not necessarily with it. Bangera believes that successful institutions “have to constantly look to the future, about where the industries are going in which students can find jobs.” As the kind of real-world experiences students can obtain through BC expands in the coming years, the goals of the strategic plan will likely be realized.