Tulsa Community College student Nikki Morgan is no longer complaining about the antiquated science labs at the Metro Campus.
Morgan was among the first to tour the three newly renovated biology and chemistry labs on the sixth floor of TCC’s downtown location during a grand opening celebration Tuesday.
The upgraded rooms were a far cry from what they were when the biotechnology major first attempted to take chemistry two summers ago. Everything still functioned back then, but the equipment was outdated and limited.
“These ones are a lot more open-spaced,” Morgan said. “They’re beautiful. This is wonderful.”
Construction for the labs began last fall, and students began using them earlier this semester.
Matt Smith, a chemistry professor at TCC, said the modernized labs are a welcome relief for those who worked and learned in their predecessors, which hadn’t seen a significant update since the Metro Campus, 909 S. Boston Ave., opened in the ‘70s.
“I’ve been here for about seven years, so I had to endure the original labs, definitely,” Smith said. “These are such a vast improvement to what we were working with previously.”
One of the major perks is the expanded space for experiments. The labs allow for several equipment storage areas and include larger prep rooms with added safety features for faculty and students working with chemicals, an instrument room to conduct research and a specific room for chemical storage.
The biology lab features a 6-foot living plant wall that provides clean air and is meant to invoke an appreciation for life and nature.
Perhaps Smith’s favorite new addition is the interactive periodic table displayed at the entrance to the chemistry labs. The multichamber exhibit showcases chemical elements, real examples of where they are found and used as well as computer graphics and tutorials to give students a better understanding.
“In each chamber, there’s multiple samples of every single element,” he said. “And many of them are in their pure elemental form, usually encased in glass and plastic to keep them safe and from reacting with something else. But also there are other naturally occurring ores. There are crystals. There are even commercial products that feature the elements or wouldn’t exist without them and also some products that used to use them and don’t anymore.”
For example, a 7-Up advertisement can be found in the chamber for lithium, which used to be an ingredient in the lemon-lime soda.
TCC President Leigh Goodson said modernizing the science labs was essential for keeping up with the growing demand for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates. One in three TCC students reportedly graduate with a degree or certificate designed to immediately begin working in the STEM field.
“Our students go out into the workforce after they graduate from Tulsa Community College, and if they haven’t been around modern equipment and modern facilities, then they aren’t able to function at the level that they need to,” Goodson said. “Keeping our facilities up to date is so critical.”
The $2.5 million renovation project was privately funded and part of TCC’s $20 million Clearing the Pathway: The Campaign for Completion. The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation provided a $1 million gift, and the Morningcrest Healthcare Foundation provided a $300,000 gift for the project through the fundraising campaign.
Goodson said the Campaign for Completion, which was announced in September 2018, already has exceeded its fundraising target and continues to receive donations. Other goals include $5 million for new endowed scholarship funds, $7 million for 22 academic advisers and 10 Answer Center advisers and $500,000 for diversity and inclusion outreach.