Pipelines and Pipets: Biotechnician Training and Undergraduate Research
This project is establishing a new biotechnology degree option and a new biotechnology certificate to respond to life science, allied health and biotechnology industry needs for more highly skilled, entry level laboratory technicians and is working closely with industry partners and industry associations to develop these programs. The new biotechnology degree option and biotechnology certificate are designed to incorporate relevant, real world applications of laboratory techniques that are required skills for biotechnicians. The courses being developed have sufficient rigor to also offer transfer credit to a four-year program.
Early undergraduate research has been shown to improve retention and academic success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and workforce competitiveness; however, the community college students this project targets are often at a disadvantage in gaining these experiences due to lack of institutional capacity or financial and time constraints common among students at community colleges. To overcome this gap, the college is infusing courses developed in support of this project, along with existing science and mathematics curriculum, with inquiry-based learning methodologies and research like laboratory exercises that promote success in biotechnology studies and other STEM disciplines. The college is also creating new opportunities for students to engage in workplace internships and on campus summer research that provide more intensive experiences and build practical skills. Professional development for faculty enhances teaching capacity to integrate inquiry based learning into science and mathematics curriculum. Acquisition of industry standard equipment provides the laboratory configuration necessary to deliver the biotechnology programs and develop industry required competencies in students. New courses developed in support of these programs and revitalized curricula throughout the Division of Science and Mathematics are grounded in research-like experiences that provide a means to engage students in learning in a way that helps them to be academically successful and teaches them the scientific inquiry skills needed for a truly comprehensive technical training.
This undergraduate research program is a model for other community colleges that are similarly challenged to provide research driven education to biotechnology and STEM students. To ensure the broader impact of the project, the college has developed a thorough dissemination plan to inform stakeholders at the local, regional, and national level on outcomes related to this initiative. Regional and state distribution channels include membership in consortia of community colleges and state universities that have the established goals of sharing experiences and promoting best practices between institutions and among colleagues. As the recipient of a model program endorsement from the Massachusetts Governor's STEM Advisory Council for its work in improving retention, graduation, and transfer rates among science majors, the college has the established credentials and support from appropriate authorities to ensure that findings from this project are both heard and heeded by institutions across the Commonwealth. On a national level, the plan is to promote the findings through accessible channels such as the annual NSF ATE conference and ATE Central, as well as seek opportunities to present findings through presentations and posters at academic conferences.