By Susan Motander
The Oak Crest Institute of Science is not just in the process of doing cutting edge research for such entities as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Institute of Health, and the National Science Foundation. While they are doing this research, they are also teaching community college students as both unpaid and paid interns who learn by working side by side with the various professional scientists and researchers. They are learning by doing.
For example, they work on projects as diverse as so called “green rust” which is found deep in the earth’s crust. Oak Crest is able to create this substance in their laboratory. JPL and others believe that this may be a building block of life and could provide a clue to the potential of life on other planets.
Other researchers there have developed a “vaginal ring” that can be used to prevent the spread of HIV and as a contraceptive device. This devise was designed especially for use in Sub-Saharan Africa. The non-clinical tests have been done on this devise, and the clinical tests should start shortly.
Another project being worked on is the study of bacteria that forms phosphorous crystals in polluted water. Part of the importance of this project is that phosphorous is being mined at a depleting rate. These bacteria could not only clean the material from water, but also be used to replenish supplies that are needed as a fertilizer.
These are merely a few of the projects being developed, studied and worked on at the Institute. While doing this they are also training a new group of researchers. As Dr. Paul Webster, whose principal areas of focus are biomedicine and advanced microscopy, explained “we have college students we are training to be not just technicians in laboratories; some of them have gone on to further education. Here we are sparking an interest in science.”
One new feature that should open soon is an incubator lab for new businesses. The advantage of partnering with Oak Crest Institute will give these businesses access to trained lab technicians ready to help in their research. While employees or interns at the Institute would remain part of Oak Crest, they would be available to assist these start-ups with their research. The Institute is expanding into part of the building next to their current location to be used by these start-ups.
Oak Crest Institute was the brainchild of Marc Baum who started the company almost 29-years ago in Pasadena. Since opening the Monrovia facility just a few years ago, they have already expanded twice.
The Institute’s mission statement tells their story: “The Oak Crest Institute of Science is an innovative chemistry and biology research and education center where today’s scientist immerse a diversity of students of all academic levels in high-impact research, cultivating tomorrow’s scientists one individual at a time.”