Updates from Johnson County Community College: Reimagining science research for student success

Renovated spaces support science subjects like biology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology and zoology.

Remodeled classrooms, labs and gathering places inside the Science (SCI) and Classroom and Lab (CLB) buildings on the main JCCC campus are reimagined with workplace-related equipment, collaboration spaces and technology to support lessons with practical applications to involve students in hands-on exploratory learning and research. The renovated spaces support science subjects like biology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology and zoology — key subjects for students interested in medical and STEM careers.  

A model of modern education

SCI and CLB classrooms now include state-of-the-art lab equipment that reflects what is used in four-year schools and science-based businesses. Each space is configured to support more hands-on, project-based course assignments. 

“The updates to the SCI building open so many possibilities for innovative instruction,” said Dr. Mary Wisgirda, Dean, Mathematics and Sciences. “The new and updated classroom and lab facilities enable faculty to better prepare students for advanced research opportunities at four-year institutions and give students experience with equipment they may encounter in the workplace.” 

Architects met with faculty to lay out space and equipment requirements to give students an expansive experience for a laboratory career or to transfer to a 4-year institution. These facilities achieve the goal of incorporating purpose-built undergraduate research lab spaces dedicated to engaging students beyond their coursework. 

The project was initially slated to take five years and be completed in 2026. Dean Wisgirda worked with architects to plan an ambitious two-year timeline that would overhaul the spaces, redistribute the programs during construction and cause less disruption for students.

Ahead of the community college curve

JCCC faculty have culminated an innovative undergraduate experience that’s uncommon for community college students. An inquiry class called CURE (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences) has students conducting their own research projects as part of JCCC’s science curriculum. This research also interests stakeholders outside the classroom as results are shared with a broad scientific community. Findings are then displayed and discussed at the CURE Symposium hosted at JCCC. Projects are judged and awarded credibility, giving students a real-world feel for what they would experience at the next level. 

Stepping into the same arena as 4-year schools, JCCC also has research opportunities funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Students studying in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields can become STEM Scholars, an esteemed cohort, receiving support through their studies, one-on-one mentoring, career-focused field trips, and four-year transfer guidance.

JCCC was awarded a six-year grant of approximately $1.5 million from the NSF to create the program and to research its efficacy in retaining students to graduation with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. The program comprises three parts: scholarships, program activities and research.

Showcasing science

Check out what JCCC students are researching at the 2024 STEM Poster Symposium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 25 in JCCC’s CoLab (OCB 100). You may find an interest in a science-oriented career or a course. Explore the opportunities and resources at JCCC.