July 13, 2016, Blue Bell, PA—Montgomery County Community College offers a four-day BIOMAN Academy for free to area high school students to introduce them to careers in science and specifically biotechnology and biomanufacturing.
As part of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2), MCCC receives funding from a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the academy and other programs to educate and train students, as well as science educators. Additionally for the past decade, NBC2 has collaborated with local biomanufacturers, educators and organizations to create a suite of instructional materials for the education and training of the technical workforce for this industry.
“To engage the students, we focused on hands-on lab experiments with brief lectures,” said Dr. Margaret Bryans, professor of Biotechnology and Principal Investigator of NBC2. “We provided protocols and additional background information for them to read on their own, so they could spend most of their time learning about and using the high-tech, biotechnology equipment in the lab to do experiments.”
Initially, the students learned how to use micropipettes, and then they competed in a friendly pipette challenge to further develop and hone their laboratory equipment skills.
As part of the introduction to biotechnology, students learned about Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). They introduced it into bacteria, learning how to purify and analyze the protein.
Their next procedure included an introduction to analytical high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and they tested several beverages to determine which had the highest caffeine content. They also learned about microbiology in the pharmaceutical world through a series of experiments led by John Hasyn, microbiology professor at MCCC.
“The academy provided more hands-on activities than what we get in high school,” said Bernard Morelos, 17, a rising senior at Upper Merion High School, who plans to enroll at MCCC following graduation. “We were introduced to scientific procedures, and we were able to see what scientists do on a daily basis.”
In addition to the experiments, two speakers—Associate Scientist Suna Lumeh from Janssen Biotherapeutics and Senior Scientist Dr. Jahan Ara from Rockland Immunochemicals—shared information about their education, training and careers.
“The speakers gave us an inside view of their lives as scientists and their education experience as they earned their degrees,” said Grace Hopkins, 15, a rising junior at Abington High School. “There are many career options in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields.”
MCCC plans to offer the BIOMAN Academy for at least the next two years to continue introducing students to science and science-related careers.
“Pennsylvania ranks No. 5 in the country for biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector jobs,” Dr. Bryans said. “And, the average salary is about $90,000. It’s important for high school students to learn about these career paths and where a bioscience degree can lead you.”
Participants included Aidan Gales, Grace Hopkins and Julian Miltonberger from Abington High School; Akhil Kulkarni from Germantown Friends High School who is a dual enrollment student at MCCC; Bernard Morelos from Upper Merion High School; Brian Erkes and Raina Kikani from North Penn High School; Chantal Alano and Khushi Doshi from Methacton High School; Evan Marrone from Souderton Area High School; Nathan Reilly and Nick Hatzenbeller from Hatboro-Horsham High School; Sarah Smith from Upper Dublin High School; and Vidya Nayak from Downingtown East High School.
Montgomery County Community College offers a 64-credit Associate in Applied Science degree in Biotechnology, as well as a 16-credit Certificate of Completion in Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing. The latter is designed to provide hands-on, industry-relevant training to students who already hold associate’s or bachelor’s degrees and who wish to obtain the skills to enter a careers in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical field.