Columbia Basin College’s Center for Laboratory Sciences (CLS) is the Washington state laboratory arm of RJ Lee Group, Inc., and is located on the CBC Pasco campus. CLS is a source of expertise for federal, state, and private customers, provides environmental and radiological research, analytical chemistry and surface characterization, methods development and laboratory services, technology development, waste form testing, information dissemination, and education and training. CLS occupies a 15,000 square foot facility completed in 2005 as part of a public-private partnership with the state of Washington through CBC.
CBC’s relationship with RJ Lee has been fostered through their joint venture in the CLS. Initiated in 2001, the CLS represents one of the first public-private partnerships in the state that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. In exchange for physical space and equipment, CBC gains access to scientific opportunities, internships, and unprecedented experiential learning possibilities for students and staff. Since its inception, RJ Lee has contributed more than $3 million to the venture.
To date, more than 50 CBC students have had internship opportunities at the CLS, with responsibilities ranging from the front desk to the lab bench. The experiences these students have been afforded typically translate to permanent positions with RJ Lee or Hanford site contractors. The radiological capabilities of CLS confer unique advantages to the students and faculty at CBC that further serves the Department of Energy’s long-term goals for training future nuclear workers. Currently, six of the seven non-administrative staff positions at the CLS are held by current students or recent graduates of CBC.
From an instructional standpoint, CBC faculty rely on the CLS as a resource for demonstrating laboratory techniques and procedures as well as providing students the ability to perform real-life research projects that result in published articles and attendance at professional conferences.
Two recent cases of student achievement reflect the importance the CLS plays in our students’ education; one CBC intern worked on RJ Lee’s response team after hurricane Katrina, while another intern, who became a full time employee of the CLS, was on a 9/11 response team working on-site in New York.
Recently, CBC students and faculty, working with RJ Lee scientists, have been instrumental in building a revolutionary new mobile laboratory for measuring toxic compounds in air in real time, and are now accompanying scientists to many sampling sites around Washington for environmental monitoring.
The impact the CLS has on higher education goes beyond CBC, also providing research and educational opportunities to Washington State University students and faculty. In June 2006, the CLS became the home for the Department of Energy’s United States Transuranium and Uranium Registries (USTUR) program. As part of the program, WSU faculty members used the CLS equipment and facilities to perform federally-funded research. This relationship has resulted in additional internship opportunities for CBC students. The CLS has served as a means for students performing research as CBC students to continue their research projects after they have transferred to WSU Tri-Cities.
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