Strengthening Continuity of Rural Education in Biotechnology

The biology department at the Flathead Valley Community College is developing a program in biotechnology that prepares students from a rural community college for transfer to four-year biotechnology programs. The primary goals of this project are to:

1. Develop a biotechnology transfer program that incorporates biotechnology cross-disciplinary laboratory exercises in cell and molecular biology and microbiology courses, and develop a new course entitled Introduction to Biotechnology. The new biotechnology course introduces students to fundamental biotechnology principles and methods using inquiry-based, interdisciplinary laboratory instruction. 2. Serve as a pipeline linking the biotechnology curriculum between rural high schools, the community college, and four-year universities. 3. Target recruitment of underserved rural science students for biotechnology careers. 4. Establish ties to biotechnology industry in Montana by developing partnerships and business connections between industry and education.

The program is integrating laboratory methods in cellular, molecular, and biotechnology within an established biology and chemistry curriculum. In addition to emphasizing cross-disciplinary laboratory experiences, the new laboratory exercises utilize well-characterized proteins and their genes to introduce students to the basic concepts of biotechnology, while allowing them to develop fundamental laboratory skills. Basic laboratory procedures such as spectroscopy, isolation of macromolecules, recombinant DNA techniques, immunochemistry, and mammalian and microbial cell culture are being introduced in inquiry-based laboratory exercises. Students are experiencing the excitement of scientific discovery while simultaneously learning the essential tools of biotechnology in a collaborative learning environment.

This project primarily impacts students living in a rural community experiencing continued economic downturn and job losses. The students served by this institution include many first-generation college students. The curriculum provides a path to careers in biotechnology, an industry that is expected to grow in Montana and other northwestern states. Further, the program provides a model for promoting biotechnology education and establishing ties to industry in a rural environment.

ATE Award Metadata

Award Number
Funding Status
ATE Start Date
July 1st, 2011
ATE Expiration Date
June 30th, 2016
ATE Principal Investigator
Ruth Wrightsman
Primary Institution
Flathead Valley Community College
Record Type
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