At a workshop underway at Texas A&M University‘s National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM) this week, high school science teachers from around the southwest region are getting the opportunity to take a firsthand look at the Center’s high-tech methods as part of a professional development program designed to help them incorporate those concepts into their classrooms.
The four-day workshop, entitled “Protein is Ca$h: An Introduction to Biomanufacturing,” is a hands-on training event for ninth to 12th-grade science teachers intended to help them more effectively teach technical concepts related to biochemistry, such as protein production and purification as well as general lab practices. The workshop is free to all participants, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and sponsored by the NCTM. Teachers also receive a $275 stipend and Continuing Education Units from Texas A&M for their participation.
A team of experts headed by Sonia Wallman, executive director and principal investigator of NBC2, an “Advanced Technological Education” center of the NSF, are leading the workshop. Along with performing technical laboratory activities, participants will have the opportunity to hear from industry experts of the biomanufacturing field and tour local pharmaceutical companies.
Additionally, through the support of grant funding from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Summer Merit Program, a select group of more than 100 high school students from the Bryan/College Station and Austin areas, all who have just completed the ninth grade, have attended NCTM’s “BioFORCE” Residential Academy and BioFORCE Day Academy during the summers of 2012 and 2013. The students get the opportunity to train with scientists and learn from industry professionals from The Texas A&M University System allowing them early exposure to the biosciences, pharmaceutical research, engineering, and the pharmaceutical manufacturing industries as part of a series of academies sponsored by the NCTM. By providing continuous and increasingly advanced developmental activities, The BioFORCE 3-year program offered to cohorts of students throughout each summer of their high school term prepares students to enter college programs in engineering or science, and ultimately, a career in the biosciences. To apply, students must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher, send in their transcripts and have a teacher complete a recommendation. As part of their applications, students are required to write an essay. Scholarship funding from the TWC’s Summer Merit Program allows these academies to be free of charge to the students.
NCTM is a center in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of the A&M University System. It is a first-of-its-kind, multidisciplinary workforce education institution and biopharmaceutical manufacturing center, located at Texas A&M focused on research and development of therapeutic agents and vaccines specifically targeted to respond more quickly to outbreaks.
Established in 1914, TEES performs quality research driven by real-world problems; strengthens and expands the state’s workforce through education and training; developing and transferring technology to industry. For nearly a century, TEES researchers have conducted relevant research and provide practical answers to critical state and national needs, and partner with industry, communities and academic institutions to solve problems to help improve the quality of life, promote economic development and enhance the educational systems of Texas. TEES also promotes new technology education and investigates problems in health and the environment, serving as a catalyst for collaborations that position Texas to be especially competitive for federal dollars and play a major role in strengthening research leadership across the state.
The BioFORCE summer academies provide high school students with a unique hands-on introduction to the industries that bring a medical discovery to market. Throughout the week-long camps, students participate in a range of activities, running their own lab experiments such as making bacterial cells glow by introducing genes from a bioluminescent jellyfish, role-play as biotechnicians, and touring pharmaceutical companies in the area and in Houston. “By role-playing as a lab technician, gowning up and doing hands-on projects as well as actually seeing this workforce in action, students get early exposure to careers in pharmaceutical research, engineering and manufacturing – an exciting and growing field,” says Jenny Ligon, NCTM assistant director in a release.
Participants learn from Texas A&M experts and industry professionals, allowing them early exposure to careers in pharmaceutical research, engineering, and pharma-manufacturing. BioFORCE is a 3-year program offered to cohorts of students throughout each summer of their high school term. By providing continuous and increasingly advanced developmental activities, BioFORCE prepares students to enter college programs in engineering or science, and ultimately, a career in the biosciences.
Biotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturing are rapidly growing industries internationally and domestically,with Texas alone having experienced nearly 20 percent growth in its bioscience workforce over the past decade. To meet the needs of these sectors in the future, NCTM is helping fill the biotech and pharma workforce pipeline with next-generation workers through teacher outreach, mentorship, and early STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education programs like the BioFORCE academies.
YouTube Video: Second Annual BioFORCE Camp Teaches Biotechnology To High School Students: