Small Signs of a Big Impact


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Eric Layton spends most of his year in rural eastern Oregon, teaching high school science and technology at North Powder Charter School.

This past summer, though, he could be found in Pacific University’s Strain Science Center, working in a lab alongside Assistant Biology Professor Gyorgyi Nyerges and a handful of undergraduate students. This summer, he’ll do the same.

The opportunity is part of a Partners in Science grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, pairing high school science teachers with university professors to experience research firsthand and take that experience back to their students.

That’s important, Layton said, because the students he teaches aren’t always exposed to a lot of variety. North Powder is a tiny community of less than 500 people. Once a stagecoach stop, today it’s a rural outpost 30 minutes from either La Grande or Baker City.

The town’s one school, North Powder Charter School, serves students from kindergarten through high school. The community’s economy is primarily agriculture-based, and popular school activities including things like the ag competition. But every opportunity to expand horizons is appreciated.

“If I can bring whatever I learn here back into the classroom, this plays into (my students’) life experience a bit more,” Layton said.

The same is true for the undergraduate students who have the opportunity to participate in summer research at Pacific University, with Nyerges and other professors.