COM Opens STEM Center, Honors Late Professor

March 13th, 2020 - 2:35pm

College of Marin (COM) celebrated the opening of its STEM Center, a multi-purpose space dedicated to expanding the representation of science, technology, engineering, and math interests on campus.

The opening on March 9 was a three-part educational event, highlighting “Baja, Marin, and Mars.” The event also paid tribute to late COM professor Dr. Gordon Chan.

The first lecture covered "The Cave Murals of Baja, California" presented by Teresa Saltzman, a COM alumna, archaeologist, and rock art specialist. In 1980, she was one of a group of COM students and faculty led by Dr. Chan who traveled to Baja, California to conduct fieldwork on rock art found in caves in the San Francisco Mountains. She shared the group’s findings and explained the detail of the experience.

The next lecture brought things closer to home with "Rock Art: Marin, Bay Area, and Beyond," and was also presented by Saltzman. She explained that rock art is found around the world, across cultures, and throughout history. Here in Marin, Native Americans also marked natural stone to create rock art.

The final lecture was presented by Marjorie Chan, distinguished professor of Geology and Geophysics at University of Utah and the daughter of Dr. Chan. Her lecture covered the topic, “Red Rocks from Earth to Mars.” She explained that the red rocks on Earth have provided important clues for interpreting the geology on Mars. She demonstrated how her studies of small terrestrial concretions (cemented mineral masses) compared with “blueberries” found on the Red Planet help scientists understand the past environments on Mars. The presentation also included a discussion of future plans in Earth and planetary explorations.

The program then paid tribute to Dr. Chan. In the 1960s, he was a biology teacher at Drake High School when he was selected to join the science faculty, following a proposal for COM to house a marine biology teaching and research station in a former U.S. Coast Guard facility that had been deeded to the College eight years prior. Chan was to assist in securing the necessary grant funding to develop the newly-established facility. Dr. Chan received the International Merit Award for Underwater Conservation and the Outstanding Educator of America Award – just two of many awards in his illustrious career. In 1974, a new species of sea slug discovered by students at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas was named Hallaxa chani in his honor.

The STEM Center at COM offers an informal setting for students to approach faculty to receive math lab assistance and develop a strong learning community for other students. The College also aims to provide the ability for faculty to reach non-traditional STEM students, like women and people of color, to discover the many careers in STEM fields.

The center originally opened in fall of 2019 as a place for faculty and students to meet and collaborate. Now, the STEM Learning Community at COM is growing and includes students from various interest groups on campus.

For more information, email STEM Learning Coordinator Paul Daubenmire or call (415) 457-8811, ext. 7531.