BIO Matters: It's share and share alike for Tulsa Biotech Consortium members

Jim Stafford: Groups work together through biotech partnership in Tulsa.
By Jim Stafford Modified: October 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm •  Published: October 6, 2013
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— Ken Miller and Diana Spencer told me the same story one day this summer about a Ph.D. student, although neither was aware the other was sharing it. The two college professors were 13 miles apart on separate campuses.

Miller is professor and chairman of anatomy and cell biology at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and conducts research on inflammatory diseases such as arthritis in the human body.

Spencer is coordinator of the Biotech Program at Tulsa Community College's Southeast Campus.

They each were discussing a graduate student whom we will call “Heith.”

A Tulsa resident who was pursuing a doctorate in the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Pharmaceutical Program in Oklahoma City, Heith needed a Tulsa-based mentor and access to a research laboratory.

Miller, who also serves as an adjunct professor at OU, agreed to serve as Heith's adviser. He recommended that Heith enroll in Spencer's program at the community college to learn biotech laboratory techniques.

That's sort of the road less traveled for a Ph.D. candidate.

“He had some educational needs in terms of hands-on experience,” Miller said. “So we contacted Diana at TCC, and he went over there and took her courses.”

Added Spencer: “Heith had been a pharmacist for 15 years and needed updated bench skills. Dr. Miller sent him to me, and he went through all our courses but one.”

The schools displayed a spirit of cooperation that reflects their membership in the Tulsa Area Bioscience Education and Research Consortium (TABERC). The consortium got its start in 2009 with four founding schools and soon expanded to nine.

In addition to Tulsa Community College and OSU-Tulsa, members now include the OU School of Community Medicine in Tulsa, Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow campus, Oral Roberts University, Rogers State University, Langston University's Tulsa campus, the University of Tulsa and Tulsa Technology Center.

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At each of the major research universities, we had for years been approached by many students hoping to find opportunities to shadow in laboratories or for internships. We took in all we could but would turn away many others. At our first consortium meeting, we decided this was our highest priority.”

Kent Teague,
associate professor at OU's Departments

of Surgery and Psychiatry in Tulsa

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