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The Halifax Community College (HCC) Science Department has been in existence for almost as long as the college. During the 40th Anniversary Week celebration, faculty reflected on the history of the department, including notable instructors.

According to Terry Wheeler, head of the department, J. Nick Barnes was the first science teacher at HCC. He taught college transfer biology courses at the old campus on 301, now the present Social Services complex, while employed by East Carolina University (ECU). In 1972, Halifax County Technical Institute, now HCC, hired him from ECU, and started the science department.

The department remained under Barnes' guidance until his death in 1998, and offered college transfer general biology courses as well as science courses needed for the emerging clinical and technical programs. As other programs increased, so did the number of science offerings.

As course offerings grew, so did the need for science teachers. In 1976, HCC hired Craig Bennett to help Barnes teach the coursework needed. One year later, Bennett left HCC to attend medical school. Since science courses were more in demand, two instructors were hired: Henry Daniels, who taught from 1976-1977, and Wheeler, who continues to teach and has led the science department since 1998.

Quite a few instructors have left their mark on HCC's Science Department. These include Dr. J. Michael Griffin, who taught biology courses and eventually psychology courses from 1978-1994; Teresa Hernandez, who taught biology from 1983-1985; Don Smith, who taught physics from 1986-1989; Dr. Pocahontas Jones, who taught biology from 1990-2004; Dr. Wilson Whitehead, who taught physics from 1990-1994; Dr. Bijoy Patnaik who taught physics from 1995-2006; Dr. Larry Blount, who taught biology from 1999-2004; Darian Hybl, who taught chemistry from 2000-2005, and Dr. Julie Galvin who was hired full time in 2005 and continues to teach biology today. Dr. Bindu Dhasmana, department chair of Pulp and Paper Technology, took over teaching chemistry classes in 2005 and still does so today.

“HCC has also been blessed, over the years, with many part-time instructors who helped establish a vital evening program,” added Wheeler.

The science department has also had its share of award winners. Teacher of the Year award recipients have included J. Nick Barnes, Dr. Pocahontas Jones and Terry Wheeler. Jones has also garnered the statewide Teacher of the Year award.

Currently, coursework offered by the science department includes general biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and a variety of chemistry courses including inorganic, organic and biochemistry. The department was originally located on the second floor of the 100 Building, but moved to the 500 Building in 1995.

“We currently use two lecture rooms and three laboratory facilities. As science is an ever-evolving discipline, our work in keeping our courses current never ends,” said Wheeler. “It is a task we enjoy and we are confident the students passing through our classrooms are better prepared for the life they choose after their tenure at HCC.”

Science faculty member and department head Terry Wheeler (left) works with students (from left) Crystal White and Erica Patrick on the microscope.