by Diane VanDyke
Science educators from across the country recently converged at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell to engage in hands-on lab work involving stem cells, biofuels and biochemistry as part of the Eighth Annual National Science Foundation (NSF) Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2) BIOMAN Conference.
This annual conference is designed to keep biotechnology and biomanufacturing faculty up to date on the latest techniques, training and education for technicians entering the industry. Thirty-eight community college and eight high school science faculty participated in the event held July 15-18.
MCCC Assistant Professor of Biotechnology and Co-Principal Investigator of NBC2, Dr. Margaret Bryans, coordinated and led the conference in collaboration with Sonia Wallman, NBC2 Principal Investigator, as well as Jennifer Imbesi, Sheila Byrne and Tim Kull, all also of NBC2.
Participants represented a range of expertise and experience, from first-time attendees like Jeremy Carreiro, a laboratory technician from Community College of Rhode Island, to Professor William H. Woodruff, Biotechnology Department Head at Alamance Community College, Graham, N.C.
“This has been a great experience for me,” said Carreiro, who plans to include the material he learned in the Microalgae to Biodiesel hands-on workshop in the program at Rhode Island. “I hope to attend every year.”
“As a presenter at this conference in the past, I thoroughly enjoy sharing new things to help others upgrade and improve their programs,” Woodruff said. “As a participant, I always learn something new to take back to the program.”
In three keynote presentations, scientists from local pharmaceutical companies talked about new and longstanding initiatives and the training required for the workforce. Tours of three local companies, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen and Merck, allowed participants to see processes firsthand and speak directly to the scientists.
Additionally, the conference’s hands-on workshops were designed and presented as a module that the faculty could insert into their existing programs. The workshops were divided into three tracks. The beginners track allowed less experienced participants to mimic the biomanufacturing process by cloning and expressing the taq polymerase gene in E coli. In the intermediate track, participants grew microalgae in photobioreactors for the production and extraction of biodiesel. In the advanced track, participants isolated adult stem cells and differentiated mouse stem cells into various cell types.
Other workshops included quality control microbiology, bioethanol production and an immunology workshop.
These topics are directly related to courses taught at Montgomery County Community College in the Biotechnology, Biomanufacturing and Molecular Techniques degree programs. Several of the workshop modules will be incorporated into the courses in the coming year.
For the fall 2013 semester, two biotechnology courses are offered: Introduction to Biotechnology (BIT120) and Basic Techniques and Instrumentation in Biotechnology (BIT123). Both an Applied Associate in Science and an Associate in Science degree program are offered. Additionally, a certificate program in biotechnology and biomanufacturing is currently being developed.
According to the U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job prospects for biological technicians is expected to grow by 14 percent through 2020, and the prospects for biochemists and biophysicists is expected to increase by 31 percent.
For more information about Montgomery County Community College’s Biotechnology program or to schedule a visit to see the biotechnology labs, contact Dr. Margaret Bryans, Program Coordinator, at email@example.com.