photo of three people sitting in front of microscopes

Pacific Power grant funds lab equipment at Southwestern

Anne Matthews News

COOS BAY, OR – Pacific Power Foundation has awarded a $5,000 grant to Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation to help purchase high-quality microscopes in the new state-of-the-art science labs in Umpqua Hall.

SWOCC Foundation added an additional $20,000 to the Science Team Energizes Micro-Biology project to purchase 24 Leica compound microscopes for students and a high-tech teaching microscope for faculty.

 “With a new lab, it’s important to have excellent equipment, and Leica is top of the line,” Biology Professor Dr. Bob Fields said. “I am excited for our students to use these excellent microscopes and integrate the newest technology in teaching.”

The majority of SWOCC’s students take science classes, whether they are majoring in science fields or pursuing general associates degrees. For students starting on their pathways to medicine, dentistry, marine biology, and a variety of science fields, Umpqua Hall’s new high-quality labs and specialized microscopes are essential.

“A project like this is of particular interest to Pacific Power, in part because Pacific Power’s CEO is very supportive of STEM education and science-based education,” said Sam Carter, the company’s regional business manager. “We are looking forward to seeing students returning to college and using these microscopes in the fall.”

The other important aspect is this project is the science labs now have enough microscopes for two labs. It ensures every student in a class has access to a microscope of their own. Having enough equipment for individual use gives students more time to explore the microscopic world and develop their skills. Individual scopes also will help the college comply with safety guidelines during the COVID pandemic and protect students’ health. It also means instructors no longer will have scramble to move microscopes from room to room, between classes.

Instructors are pleased with the teaching scope, too. It features a digital screen, allowing an instructor to enlarge and visually isolate specimens to help students better understand what they are looking for and the fundamentals of identification.

“I can show in bigger and greater detail, “here’s what you’re looking for,” Fields said. “Or, if a student finds something very interesting, particularly if we’re doing pond or water work, then I can showcase what they’ve found so other students can look.”

Having the ability to capture digital images also gives instructors the ability to share more with students in online classes and adapt lessons.

Purchasing equipment is the final step in the development Umpqua Hall, a $24 million project funded almost entirely by grants and community donations. Designed to inspire tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, and health care professionals, Southwestern’s new science, nursing and paramedicine labs open Monday, Sept. 13, with the start of fall term.

The college has scheduled an open house for the community to tour the building and talk with faculty from 2-6 p.m., on Friday, Sept. 24. 

Photo from left to right: Dr. Robert Fields, Biology Professor; Sam Carter, Pacific Power Regional Business Manager; Amy Burgess, Science Lab Assistant

About the Pacific Power Foundation

The Pacific Power Foundation is one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 1.8 million customers in six Western states as Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington and California) and Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/foundation or www.rockymountainpower.net/foundation.

About the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation

The Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation exists to benefit Southwestern Oregon Community College and provide adequate resources to improve every student socially, culturally, economically and educationally. For more information, visit www.socc.edu/foundation.