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Students at Fort Lewis College engage in experiential learning inside and outside the classroom, from hands-on activities and labs to field studies, original research, service learning, and internships. These experiences emphasize solving real-world issues. Our small class sizes ensure students can work closely with our dedicated faculty, even in lower division courses.
The School of Science and Health includes disciplines in natural, physical, and health sciences. Our programs provide students with critical thinking skills, a strong technical background, and multifaceted knowledge to prepare them for a wide variety of careers in industry, healthcare, and other professional opportunities in their field of study. At Fort Lewis College, we embrace and emphasize hands-on learning where all students in the school complete a senior capstone project for their degree.
Our departments include Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geosciences, Health and Human Performance, Mathematics, Physics and Engineering, Psychology, and Public Health. Our students conduct laboratory research or gain experience in the field with faculty, work as interns in industry, or gain employment in the Durango community leading to a variety of internship and career opportunities. Many students complete a double major, obtain a minor, or certificate in other departments at Fort Lewis College.
Following graduation, our students find positions in industry, research laboratories, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and in the healthcare field. Our graduates leave Fort Lewis College with a liberal arts education combined with hands-on experience in their field of study.
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Dr. Fenster serves as the Interim Dean of the School of Science and Health for AY22-23. He served as Associate Dean of Arts and Science from 2020-2022 and Co-Chair of the Biology Department from 2019-2020 and is currently a Professor of Biology. He received his B.S. in Biology from the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) and Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). Prior to coming to Fort Lewis College, he was an Associate Professor of Biology at Ashland University. Before starting his career as a professor, he was a post-doctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he conducted research on pediatric brain cancer and developmental brain disorders.
Dr. Fenster area of expertise is molecular neurobiology. His research is focused on characterizing the function of proteins found in synapses, which are communicating junctions between cells in the brain called neurons. As a doctoral student, he was part of a team of researchers that identified the Piccolo protein, which functions as a key organizational component of synapses in the vertebrate nervous system. Recent studies on the Piccolo gene have revealed that inherited changes in the DNA coding sequence for the human form of the gene can lead to a variety of neurological disorders including predisposition to major depressive disorders, and in more severe cases, abnormal brain development. His research findings on the Piccolo protein were published in the journals Neuron, International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. His research articles have been highly cited including multiple times by Nobel laureates. He has also published research studies in the areas of virology, immunology, oncology, fungal biology, and environmental biology. He is co-author of a highly cited book chapter on real-time PCR written for undergraduate research students.
Dr. Fenster received the Fort Lewis College New Faculty Award (2015). He currently serves as program director of the FLC National Institute of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE). The FLC NIH U-RISE program provides support to undergraduate students at Fort Lewis College who are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences and prepare them for graduate training in a research-based Ph.D. program.
Dr. Fenster’s passion for science was sparked when he received a microscope on his eighth birthday. Growing up in Northern San Diego County, his family spent many days in the summer roaming around the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It was this experience that helped develop his love for biology and the natural world. In college, he had the opportunity to work at a start-up biotech company that developed one of the first targeted anti-viral molecules now part of the cocktail of drugs used to treat individuals infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). His first full-time research position after graduating from UCSD was as a lab technician at the Agouron Institute in La Jolla, California where he helped develop a novel mechanism to inhibit the synthesis of the HIV envelope protein required for viral infection.
Dr. Fenster found his passion for teaching as a graduate student at UAB and realized he could combine his love of research with teaching by becoming a faculty member at a liberal arts college like Fort Lewis. He has helped mentor many students as a research advisor and teacher, and through his work as a pre-health advisor helping them find careers in biomedical research and the healthcare fields. He is dedicated to integrating the science departments with the health-related disciplines at Fort Lewis to help students discover their career path.