Most research that’s conducted by students in their undergraduate years is done usually during their junior and senior years at a four-year institution.
That’s not the case at Muskegon Community College.
“MCC is unique I think in that we are starting students very early on in their college career doing research, starting with a question, researching the question, developing a hypothesis, and actually carrying out and researching that on their own,” said MCC Instructor Darren Mattone. “This isn’t a canned lab activity. They are actually defining the problem that they want to investigate and designing the experiment to actually collect the data.”
Students choose an area within a defined list of topical areas. Some of the research categories to date have been:
MCC’s state-of-the-art Science Center, which opened in 2015, enhances those unique opportunities with dedicated space for student research and equipment to support research in genetics, cell culture, microbiology, and biotechnology, among others.
“This is something that is very unusual at a community college, “added MCC Instructor Shawn Macauley. “A place where students will have meaningful research projects that they can come and participate in for the two years while they are here. And that’s going to really put those students ahead of the curve when it comes to their transferring to four-year schools and later on when they’re looking at graduate programs.”
“This is going to expand the opportunities for students when they transfer to a four-year school or apply for admission into select programs, such as pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, medical school, or graduate school.” explained Mattone. “The skills developed in this course are skills that advanced degree programs and admissions offices look for in students when they submit applications.”
What former MCC student researchers say about their experience:
Grand Valley State University Pre-Med
“When I reflect on my two years spent at Muskegon Community College (MCC), the class that stood out the most and provided the greatest opportunity and experience for me was Biology 280. As community college undergraduate research is not the most common opportunity, taking advantage of it is a must.
In Biology 280, I was challenged to think outside of the boundaries of an ordinary class as I learned multiple techniques and designed my own research project to study for the semester. The techniques learned in the research lab at MCC were eventually exercised in classes as I moved on to finish my Bachelor’s Degree at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). I performed my research on the density and diversity of freshwater sponges, where DNA was extracted from the sponges and used for PCR to identify the sponge species. In my genetics lab at GVSU, PCR was a common technique used and I was one of the few students with experience working through this process.
Along with the techniques, there was an introduction to scientific writing methods that have helped me in writing research papers in all of my lab sections of biology courses at GVSU. It was a great extra-curricular course selection that provided one of the most educational experiences in a single course for me.”
Ferris State University Pharm.D candidate
“We were taught the process of developing a research question by reviewing published literature. I benefited greatly from this portion of the course, as this work helped develop skills I currently use weekly in my graduate studies.
As a student in this course you get the opportunity to work with faculty one-on-one as they assist and mentor you in your own research. This all leads up to an amazing opportunity to present your research at the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) in a national poster presentation conference.
Doing research has enhanced my critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills as well as, an acquired knowledge of how research expands on foundational understanding to a more advance understanding. By engaging in research, I found it easier to understand published works and use literature to enhance my own research findings.
This course is also a great professional development tool. It has prepared me for graduate school by influencing and enhancing my academic credentials to support my Pharmacy school application. It also exposes you to research ethics and the importance of a strong work ethic. The poster presentations are great opportunities to network and mold your professionalism outside of the classroom. At first, I was intimidated by research because it is a different form of learning that is not seen in traditional courses. It challenges the student to be mentally versatile throughout the research process. However, after completing this course I view research as a beneficial tool that not many students get to grasp at this level of education.”
University of Michigan
” A unique learning experience that combines hands-on learning, laboratory experience, and the development of professional scientific skills. Walking into the lab on the first day of class was both overwhelming and exciting, mostly due to the fact that this was my first experience in a college level lab setting.
The class was set up in such a way that that allowed for us to research almost any topic we desired; limited only by time, practicality, and relevance. Throughout the class I was learning and applying valuable lab experience that most students don’t receive until years into their educational journey, and usually at a larger institution. My lab partner and I worked specifically on using DNA barcoding technologies to identify and categorize where species of freshwater sponges are found in varies places around West Michigan. This required us to take our learned lab skills, and apply them out in the field where a large portion of our research took place.
Another major portion of this course was compiling our research into a scientific paper, which like most of this class, was a unique and valuable skill to earn at the community college level. This was the first scientific paper I had ever written, and I can now affirm that the writing process for this paper set me up to be better prepared for the level of writing at my current school; the University of Michigan.
Finally, another opportunity this course provided me, was to travel as a class to the CCURI conference at present my research along other community college students from all of the country. This was such a great chance to not only learn about interesting research being conducted by other students, but it was also the perfect opportunity to network and expand my understanding of what it means to truly conduct scientific research.
Upon reflection, I can now see how lucky I was to have the opportunity to take this course while at MCC. This course was one of the most educational and applicable I had taken in all two years at the school. I was able to take all those experiences, connections, and skills I had gained through the course and actively apply them to the work and research I have conducted at Michigan. I would highly recommend this course to any student who is interested in working/researching in a lab setting, developing their scientific writing skills, and/or desiring an opportunity to present research on a national level.”
MCC Class of 2017
Ball State University, Psychology Major
“Professor Mattone’s Biol 280 class was one of, if not the most, influential classes I took while at Muskegon Community College. Coming from a less than intense background in Biology I was worried about understanding the materials, but was at the same time drawn into the idea of playing with DNA, doing PCR and Electrolysis and running my own experiment. I cannot express how glad I am that I let my curiosity win out and I signed up. Not only did Professor Mattone make the information accessible to us in a way even I could understand, he made it enjoyable and helped us to find a project in which we would feel invested in our learning.
As a senior at a four year university now I found my experiences to be invaluable to me even now. I work in a research lab and am currently taking a research class that pales in comparison to what I learned in Biol 280. Everything in it seems like a breeze because I feel so prepared and I am miles ahead of my classmates in terms of my professional, scientific article writing, as well. Instead of feeling anxious and worried that my work is maybe not the best it could be, I am already excited to share my findings when the time to present comes. This is also partially due to Biol 280 since I have had the experience of presenting my research to a variety of individuals at multiple colloquiums during that class that helped me hone in on what I was doing well, and what I could improve on.
If you are looking for a class at MCC that will challenge you, but make you feel prepared for that next step in your career, I highly recommend Biol 280. The information, support and experience I gained have been more useful than I imagined going in, and have given me a great bedrock to build my career on.
University of Michigan
“Research can be defined in many different ways depending on the field, the individual involved, and the project at hand. For me, research is an opportunity to take learning outside of a traditional classroom. This learning can range anywhere from using known information to improve the efficiency of a machine all the way to discovering unknown biology to help create groundbreaking drugs to combat diseases. Biology 280 offers an amazing opportunity to get exposed to research in areas that may interest you!
Working with Professor Mattone in Biology 280 at Muskegon Community College was instrumental in creating my passion for research; it was my first structured opportunity where I was able to take learning outside of the classroom. During Biology 280, I was interested in investigating the bacteria involved in anaerobic digestion and what gases they produced. Through Biology 280 and with Professor Mattone, I was able to learn various scientific techniques while also applying concepts I learned in other courses at MCC. At the conclusion of a semester long research experience, I had the opportunity to present my research at a national conference called Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI). This conference provided another opportunity to take learning outside a classroom – I was able to learn about different research projects in different fields from fellow students from all over the country!
Upon graduating from MCC, I was able to take my research experience from Biology 280 to University of Michigan. At UM, I was able to join a research community that aided me in finding a research project within the university. For two years, I worked with a specific protein, Rho. Since then, I have joined a new lab working with astrovirus and norovirus. In both cases, I was able to talk about my experiences in Biology 280 and at CCURI to help me further my education in fun and exciting ways.”
MCC Class of 2017
Central Michigan University student
“Bio 280 was the last Bio class I took at MCC. I personally loved every second of being in the class. Mattone is a wonderful teacher that provided an awesome experience to me and my classmates. In Bio 280 you get to do research on a topic of your choosing. I chose to see what Zinc did to Freshwater Sponges DNA. During this class you are exposed to many new scientific things. We had to write a formal research paper, make a scientific poster, and present our poster at a CCURI event. This gives you awesome experience on showing your research. If you want to be a researcher of some sort, this will be great experience for you. I went into the class thinking I wanted to be an art teacher. Then coming out of the class I had totally changed my mind, so I switched to becoming a science teacher. I transferred to Central Michigan University after graduating. This class has helped me in all of my other science classes. There is a common theme that runs in the science classes here at central; we have to write at least one pretty formal scientific paper for each science class we take. Going into the classes at central, I already had a basic understanding of what the format of the papers needed to be and how to present the material. All in all, I really loved Bio 280 and I would recommend it to anyone pursuing science as a career!”
Pre-Pharmacy at FSU
“I was very unsure of how I would like the class to begin with, and only took it after some encouragement. However, once we started with the class I enjoyed it immensely. I really liked the small class size and the one on one help you can get from Professor Mattone. I also learned a lot of useful tasks while taking the class that have helped me in research and other sciences classes such as Microbiology. The trip to present our work was also very incredible with all the different projects really eye opening. Overall, I highly recommend this class to anyone who enjoys biology or even has any curiosity about it.”