Physics & Astronomy Lecture: Southwestern brings former NASA Flight Director to discuss Lessons Learned from Mission Control

Physics & Astronomy Lecture: Southwestern brings former NASA Flight Director to discuss Lessons Learned from Mission Control

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Physics and Engineering Department is pleased to welcome Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, current National Space Grant Project Manager at NASA and former Flight Director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Mission Control for a talk “Lessons Learned from Mission Control”. Gonzalez-Torres will be sharing insights gained through his academic and professional career. The lecture will take place Thursday, February 9, 2023, at 4:00 pm in Umpqua Hall 184 on Southwestern’s Coos Campus (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay).

Gonzalez-Torres will discuss the experiences that led him to oversee space missions at Johnson Space Center, and his current work with the Space Grant program. He will highlight challenges he’s encountered and share advice for students and future scientists. We encourage students of all ages and interested community members to attend and participate in the Q and A following the lecture.

The talk will be streamed live for those that cannot come to campus. Access the live stream via our website ( or at this link:

For students and community members in Curry County (and beyond) a Zoom link will be available so that you may participate in both the lecture and Q and A. For zoom participation information contact Dr. Aaron Coyner at


For more information about the lecture series contact Dr. Aaron Coyner, Associate Professor of Physics, at 541-888-7244,

To learn more about physics and engineering degrees at Southwestern visit

Photo Credit: Iowa State University



Physics and Engineering Programs at Southwestern hosts Open House

Physics and Engineering Programs at Southwestern hosts Open House

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Physics and Engineering programs will host an open house event for prospective students of all ages and their families. Join us on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at 6 pm in the auditorium of Umpqua Hall (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay), our new Health & Science Technology building. We will discuss the available programs and transfer options at Southwestern and highlight the research and project experiences of our current Space Physics Engineering and Atmospheric Research (SPEAR) team.

This event is a joint venture between Southwestern and NASA Oregon Space Grant Consortium (OSGC), and the Providing Research Infrastructure in Space and Material Sciences Project (PRISMS).

The evening will include a Question-and-Answer session about our programs and a tour of our new physics and engineering labs. The event is free and open to anyone interested: middle and high school students, as well as non-traditional students.

For more information, please contact our OSGC PRISMS project coordinator, Krystal Hopper, at or Dr. Aaron Coyner, Associate Professor of Physics, at 541-888-7244,

To learn more about physics and engineering degrees at Southwestern visit

Oregon Coast Culinary Institute offers a Prepared Dinner and Chocolates & Sweets for Valentine’s Day

Oregon Coast Culinary Institute offers a Prepared Dinner and Chocolates & Sweets for Valentine’s Day

Coos Bay, OR – The Oregon Coast Culinary Institute’s (OCCI) Culinary Competition Team is offering a three-course take-home meal for two to share with your Valentine. Proceeds from the sale support the team’s travel to competitions around the country.


PRE-ORDER IS NECESSARY: You must pre-order by Friday, February 10, 2023. Pick up is at OCCI (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay) from 10 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, February 14.


This meal for two is prepared and ready to serve. Cost is $65 for the dinner; $80 if you’d like a bottle of wine included. On the menu: Caesar Salad, Focaccia, Pasta with Tomato Basil Sauce & Spicy Sausage, Heart Shaped Cheesecake and four Chocolate Covered Strawberries. To pre-order, email or call 541-888-7309.


Looking for sweet treats only?  OCCI’s La Patisserie is having a chocolate and sweets sale as well. Pre-order is not necessary. Just come to OCCI between 10 am and 1 pm on Tuesday, February 14 and pick out your favorites.


Items include:

  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries (GF): $5 each, $15 for six
  • Selection of Chocolates (GF): $7 box of four, $18 box of 12
  • Red Velvet Cupcakes: $18 for four
  • 6-Pack Macarons (GF): $8
  • Heart-Shaped Cheesecake (GF available): $12
  • 8” Flourless Chocolate Torte (GF): $15
  • 6-Pack Sugar Cookies: $12


Questions? Email or call 541-888-7309. Thank you for supporting our students in this fundraising event.


APPLY NOW! Southwestern Foundation Scholarships

APPLY NOW! Southwestern Foundation Scholarships

Are you planning to attend Southwestern Oregon Community College in the 2023-24 academic year? If so, you are encouraged to apply for scholarships!

Thanks to generous donors, the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation awards nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually to students attending Southwestern. Any student planning to attend college during the 2023-24 academic year is encouraged to apply. This includes both full-time and part-time students.

Applications are available annually January 1 – March 1. For all the details and to apply, visit

  • One application will automatically apply students to all the scholarships to which they qualify.
  • Early bird incentive! Applications submitted by 11:59 p.m. on February 1 are eligible to qualify for an additional $1,000 scholarship.
  • All applications are DUE BY 11:59 P.M. on MARCH 1, 2023. No exceptions.

Questions about Southwestern Foundation scholarships? Contact or call 541-888-7209.

Physics and Astronomy Lecture: Diving into an Ocean World – NASA’s Hunt for Habitability on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Physics and Astronomy Lecture: Diving into an Ocean World – NASA’s Hunt for Habitability on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College announces the return of our Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series for 2023. For the first lecture we proudly welcome a return visit from Southwest Research Institute Research Scientist, Dr. Tracy Becker. Dr. Becker was a guest in our series in November of 2020 where she provided an introduction to the Europa Clipper mission and NASA’s interest in Jupiter’s icy moon within its search for habitable worlds. With the launch of Europa Clipper approaching (tentatively October 2024), we welcome Dr. Becker back for new mission updates and insights.

This free lecture will be held on January 19, 2023, at 6:30 pm in Umpqua Hall, the new Health and Science Technology building, on the Coos Campus (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay). Our speaker will be joining us virtually but will be able to interact with the live audience for a question-and-answer discussion.

Dr. Becker provided the following insight on her presentation:

NASA’s Europa ­­Clipper mission will conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could have conditions suitable for life. The Europa Clipper mission will carry a payload of cutting-edge instruments used for an in-depth study of the composition, geology, and interior of Europa. But why explore this moon? Europa has an icy surface that protects a liquid ocean underneath, making it a very compelling target for NASA’s search for habitability. In my talk we will discuss what we know about Europa and how we know it, plus what we hope to learn through the deep exploration of this ocean world with the Europa Clipper mission.

The talk will be streamed via Zoom for those that cannot come to campus. Access the lecture using this link:

For more information, please contact Dr. Aaron Coyner, Associate Professor of Physics, at 541-888-7244, To learn more about physics and engineering degrees at Southwestern visit
Developing a New Health & Science Tech Building

Developing a New Health & Science Tech Building

This project was 20 years in the dreaming.

Southwestern talked for years about the need for modern labs to improve training for students in health care, nursing and science career pathways. The College is the region’s No. 1 job training hub. Even so, the College could not pass a bond measure to fund the project in the late 1990s.

Then came the perfect storm.

Hospitals and medical offices on the southern Oregon coast grappled with an increasing demand for registered nurses and high-skill health care workers. By 2015, one-third of these workers were ready to retire in the region. Health care facilities were spending millions to hire traveling nurses. Nationwide, the nursing shortage intensified.

Students were frustrated. There was no room in the College’s fully enrolled nursing program. This includes the nursing program on the Curry Campus, 120 miles away. Chemistry students dabbled in a 1965-era lab. The health and science buildings did not accept new technology and modern heating, lighting and ventilation. Student collaboration areas were non-existent.

So, how does a small, public college make a dream reality?

Friends, donors and alumni

First, the College had to understand and document the urgent need for workers and modern training facilities. Second, it had to develop a plan to meet demand for highly-skilled workers. Then, the Southwestern Foundation joined in to bring people together with a vision to inspire tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and health care professionals.

Soon, we were on a mission to transform Umpqua Hall into state-of-the-art nursing and science labs with advanced technology, a lecture hall and student collaboration areas.

The Coquille Indian Tribe was the first community partner to join with Southwestern Foundation to launch fundraising. Soon, Bay Area Hospital followed with a challenge to the medical community to match a $1 million donation. Within 24 hours, doctors through the Advanced Health organization stepped up. Ford Family Foundation was next, offering a 3-to-1 match on every dollar individuals donated.

The dream evolved into a $25 million investment by donors, grantors and community partners to complete the largest construction project in the College’s 61 years.

The Return on Investment

Southwestern soon transformed its original campus building — Umpqua Hall – into a vibrant, collaborative learning space that celebrates the College’s history and helps reach into the future.

The College opened Umpqua on Sept. 13, 2021. The building includes a modern nursing lab aligned with industry standards; two multi-use, technology rich classrooms; a mid-sized lecture hall; and up-to-date labs for EMT/paramedicine, physics/engineering, geology, anatomy & physiology, biology and chemistry.

Nursing Enrollment Doubles

There have been many successes in this project. Perhaps the most impactful is the nursing program expansion. The College doubled enrollment in the program, now training 105 first- and second-year students annually. It also increased clinical training placement in the five hospitals in the College district and hired additional faculty.

The new, much larger nursing lab mimics hospital, ICU and medical clinic settings. There are large practice areas and “sick patient” simulators to give students immediate, hands-on opportunities to refine diagnostics and skills.

A new paramedicine lab mimics real home rescue settings and houses an ambulance, helping better prepare students for real-life integration with nurses and other medical professionals.

Science Pathways And Hands-On Learning Increases

In anticipation of new lab space, the College brought back physics and engineering degree pathways. Enrollment in chemistry and other biology/science transfer degree pathways are seeing increasing enrollment, too.

Faculty are incorporating the building’s green energy aspect into the physics, engineering and chemistry curriculum. Passively heated and cooled with automated temperature and fresh-air systems, the building is the most efficient education building on the southern Oregon coast.

Responsible Revitalization

Umpqua Hall showcases Oregon’s innovative wood products. It sets a standard for wise-use of locally sourced materials, featuring cross-laminated timber and glulam beams reminiscent of the campus’ original construction.

As the timelines for Umpqua Hall’s opening and the College’s 60th year anniversary merged, we dug into our history. We rediscovered stories of our College’s beginning, and realized the past is an elemental component of the future.

Glulam timber arrived in America in the 1930s. Stronger than steel, it soon became a product of Northwest mills. Throughout the century, our community manufactured specialized wood products, shipping them around the globe. In the 1950s, local longshoring families profited mightily off this industry. Still, they knew future generations needed diverse career path choices. They wanted their children to be able to go to college locally. They lobbied Oregon lawmakers and successfully helped launch the start of Oregon’s public community colleges in 1959. Southwestern was Oregon’s first public community college.

Southwestern’s early founders soon designed a campus in a forest setting beside two lakes. By 1964, builders were placing glulam beams atop Umpqua Hall – the original “shops building”. The beams became the support system for the roof structure.

Who would have imagined the original lumber would remain viable today?

During Umpqua Hall’s renewal, workers gutted the building but saved the time-stained beams. Blasting them with walnut shells, workers restored the wood’s original splendor. In the new building section, they erected colossal glulam beams that stretch up two stories, angling perpendicularly to support massive cross-laminated timber or CLT slabs. It forms the building’s warm, natural ceilings.

The College sourced all wood products from regional manufacturers. Builders learned new construction techniques with CLT produced by D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations of Riddle, Oregon. Roseburg Forest Products provided long-grained Douglas-fir boards so Southern Oregon wood-ceiling manufacturer 9Wood could mill the lumber into linear acoustic slats that accent the walkways and lecture hall.

Today, design-award winning Umpqua Hall symbolizes a fusion of past and present, architecture and engineering. It celebrates our pursuit of knowledge and our place in the ecosystem.

Eco-powered … naturally!

Southwestern broke ground on the 43,270 sq. ft. project in April 2019. Umpqua Hall soon became the region’s most energy-efficient building of its kind in the region. The project promotes sustainability in three important ways:

  1. repurposing and modernizing a small, under-used historic building;
  2. adding new modern, highly energy-efficient instruction space; and
  3. installing a solar photo-voltaic system to generate electricity

The building is in the Path to Net-Zero program through the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO). We estimate Umpqua Hall will be 70% more efficient than today’s standard, similar buildings. The benefits of our project include:

  • The College tapped into ETO cash incentives and technical assistance.
  • ETO assisted in the design process, including help with studies, analysis and monitoring systems.
  • A photovoltaic solar array provides an endless supply of renewable energy, and is an interactive component in the physics and engineering program.
  • In partnership with OPSIS Architecture of Portland and HGE Inc. of Coos Bay, the College chose a site layout to ensure the building works in harmony with the coastal climate. This will also effectively reduce energy costs for decades to come.

Efficient LED lighting coupled with daylight harvesting in perimeter spaces illuminates all space. The building is passively heated and ventilated, with a radiant floor heating system throughout.

Operable windows connect to the building’s direct digital control system and ventilate the space when necessary, flushing the building fresh during the night.

Rainwater run-off flows through swales and native vegetation filtration, eventually meandering into the Coos Bay estuary.

The Stats 

  • Architect: Opsis Architecture, Portland
  • General Contractor: Bogatay Construction, Klamath Falls
  • Job creation: 55 construction jobs. 110,000 hours of labor.
  • Attracting top-notch faculty: The College added physics/engineering, nursing and EMS instructors; along with 17 part-time faculty at clinical sites in the region’s four community hospitals in Coos, Curry and western Douglas counties, and at larger Trauma 3 facility in Coos Bay.
  • $25 million investment: $8M state grant, $6.5M community donations, $5.75M College funding, $3M U.S EDA grant, $1.9M New Markets Tax Credits


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