Alpha to Omega: It’s All Genetics |

Alpha to Omega: It’s All Genetics

Franklin S. Carman III

“Asked on CNN’s ‘Late Edition’ whether he had the DNA of Saddam Hussein and his sons, (U.S. General Tommy) Franks said, ‘Of course; of course.’ He did not say how the DNA was obtained.” — Nevada Appeal, April 14.

Whether you grow alfalfa, wheat, corn, cantaloupes or rice; raise horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens or turkeys; are in forensic or military sciences identifying/analyzing evidence; are working to determine paternity or a person’s identity; or are searching for the gene responsible for Alzheimers disease; eventually you’ll need some sort of educational background or experience regarding genetics and DNA.

To obtain that background, students must be exposed continuously to the sciences in exciting forms beginning in the very low grades and continuing through their formative years of middle and high school, then into college.

Western Nevada Community College offers an important educational lifeline for more than 6,000 students each semester and the population across 18,000 square miles of Nevada. Master’s and doctorally-prepared faculty provide students with a very broad foundation in chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics, to prepare them for study in fields like Human Genetics (BIOL 208). The courses are scheduled conveniently so that students can both work and pursue their freshman and sophomore years of college successfully, and at an affordable price.

Once a year or so, Mrs. Phyllis Lipka and I coordinate a field trip for her Carson Middle School science students to visit one of WNCC’s science labs. Using chemical reactions that illustrate color changes, visual compositional changes and out and out “smoke and flames,” the experience stimulates these students to stretch themselves and apply what Mrs. Lipka has taught them, and to think beyond what they have learned.

It’s the excitement in the form of “ooh’s” and “aah’s” and the unbridled exclamations inherent with mind-expanding learning that drives these students to learn more about science and make a contribution to the ever-expanding fields of science.

After taking lots of math and science courses in high school (math and science every year in high school), students are looking around to find their futures. Do I find a job or do I go to college? Should I do both? These are the burning questions on their minds — besides the obvious post-secondary school thoughts of finally having a life of their own.

The United States now faces a unique challenge: the Baby Boomers are aging and living longer than their parents. That generation will create the largest population of senior citizens ever in this country. As a society, we must educate more clinically oriented professionals — physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, technologists, technicians and therapists.

These health care experts will be absolutely necessary to assist the Baby Boomers in maintaining their high quality of life and health.

It also means that teachers who educate our young students to enter those professions are equally vital. People of all ages and walks of life reap the benefits of having their community college in their community for their community. Truly, the community college and the community it serves are necessarily interdependent. Together, they can reach these goals.

Franklin S. Carman III, Ph.D., is a professor of physical and biological sciences and the chairman of the Division of Science and Allied Health at WNCC.