2013-14 Unit Plan

Mission Statement

The Butte College Department of Physical Sciences provides quality educational programs within a student-centered environment. We offer complete lower division transfer programs for physical science (chemistry, geology, physics, physical science, meteorology and engineering) majors, as well as high-quality general education, program support (health professions including nursing, respiratory therapy and EMT) and preparatory classes that serve the needs of our community.

Program Description

The Department of Physical Sciences enjoys an excellent reputation within the campus community. The Chemistry, Engineering, Physics and Geology programs offer lower-division courses for science and engineering majors and the Physical Science program offers general education courses for all majors. Students that have been through our programs return on a regular basis to reflect on their experiences, and the sense of collegiality they felt while in our classes. This is also reflected in student evaluations. We have several faculty members that were former students and have wanted to come back to the department and give back some of what they received. We have worked with other departments (specifically Mathematics, Biology, and Computer Science) to create a student-friendly schedule with accessible offerings in a number of different formats. All chemistry classes, and many classes in other programs, tend to close before the end of registration with full waitlists, again reflecting a high degree of demand for our programs as well as a solid reputation for our courses. 

An analysis of enrollment patterns clearly shows that the Chemistry program is at maximum capacity, and needs to grow significantly to accommodate student demand. All seven sections of CHEM 110 for Fall 2012 closed within days of the start of registration. Since we lost the two nighttime sections due to an associate faculty medical leave, we were permitted to add them into the daytime schedule and they too filled within days. We have been able to continue this trend into Spring 2013 in addition to adding the nighttime sections back into the schedule.  All nine sections filled before the end of registration. Demand for this class is high because of the enforcement of prerequisites in some science courses.  Every other chemistry class, save three, was filled in Spring 2013, with a total of approximately 150 students on waitlists. We need additional lab space, lecture facilities, funds for pressing equipment needs to retain articulation of second year courses, funds for increasing costs of chemicals, and an increased budget for student assistant help.

Future Development Strategy

Strategy 1

The two most pressing needs are space and funds.

  • Focusing on student success
  • Valuing a culture of learning
  • Enhancing an innovative, responsive, and accountable culture

  • Supporting Rationale
    Due to the safety issues with chemistry, labs cannot be overfilled.  Consequently, we are in dire need of more laboratory space as well as lecture space. 

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Resolving health, life, and safety issues
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Required Resources

    Overall, the Physical Sciences department generates a high FTES due to student contact hours.  This results from large lecture classes, which hold several lab sections (56-84 students) each, and full lab sections (24-28 students). Students taking most of these lectures must also take 3-6 hours of lab per week. The large lecture hall in the Physical Science building (PS-131) is normally scheduled from 8 a.m. until 2 or 4 p.m. every day including Friday.  PS-108 is our other mid-sized lecture room with 56 desks. Its schedule is more varied, but it is generally busy from 8 a.m. to 2 or 5 p.m.  PS-108 is an awkward classroom that is destined to become a general-purpose lab in the future.  This could allow us to expand our schedule, as our current lab rooms are heavily scheduled.  However, conversion of PS-108 into a lab classroom would create the need for a new lecture hall.  PS-105 is the sole physics lab and it also serves as a lecture/lab for some of the physical science courses. There are only a few time slots left in one of our inorganic labs (PS-133) and in our organic lab (PS-115). We are desperately hoping Butte College will move forward on the proposal submitted for the new Science Building when the California budget equilibrates.  An alternative would be to remodel the automotive building to give us more lecture and/or lab space.

    Current Revenue Stream

    Program Supply & Equipment: $27,886

    Augmentation Requests

    Original Priority Funded Program, Unit, Area Resource Type Description Account Number Object Code One-Time Augment Ongoing Augment Supporting Rationale
    1 Yes All Facilities New Building $30,000,000.00 $0.00 All of our programs need additional space.
    2 Yes All Facilities Automotive Building $1,500,000.00 $0.00 If the state does not approve a new science building, the next best solution is to refurbish the Automotive building into lecture and laboratory space.
    3 Yes All Facilities MESA Offices $50,000.00 $0.00 The MESA offices occupy one entire side of the Physical Sciences building. If we could move MESA into a different building--but one that is still proximate to ours--we could recapture that space and turn it into a lecture room, or a lecture/laboratory combination.
    4 Yes All Equipment New Chairs $50,000.00 $0.00 The table and chair arrangement in the large lecture hall PS-131 is not ideal. By replacing with new tables and chairs, we can increase the number of seats without adversely affecting pedagogy or safety.
    5 Yes All Operating Expenses Student Grader Money $5,000.00 $2,000.00 Our budgets desperately need augmentation to cover an increase in student assistant hours. With the large class sizes and the requirement of re-labs, lab reports, and homework that is necessary for student success, instructors need more grader help. We have seen a direct correlation between what is turned in/graded and student success. Few students in the introductory courses have the discipline to do the homework unless there are points associated with it. With class sizes and the volume of student work collected it is extremely difficult to stay afloat without a grader. We appreciate that the SI program has been institutionalized, and we would also ask for more SI leaders and tutors in CAS. We have seen increased student success with these programs and our students are begging for more tutor hours.
    6 Yes Chemistry Equipment Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Instrument $100,000.00 $0.00 We wish to purchase an instructional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) instrument to meet CSU articulation requirements for organic chemistry. This is a very expensive item; however, other community colleges in the area have this instrument and its absence presents a problem in our curriculum. It would be used in CHEM 2, 52, 21 and 22.
    7 Yes Chemistry Equipment Gas Chromatograph $100,000.00 $0.00 The purchase of a new gas chromatograph with a flame ionization detector (GC-FID) would also strengthen our organic chemistry program.
    Total(s) $31,805,000.00 $2,000.00