-The Georgia BioEd Institute’s Summer Biotech Immersion program, sponsored by local biopharma company UCB, provided a laboratory-intensive professional learning experience to eight high school biology/biotechnology teachers on June 4-8, 2018. If funded for summer 2019, the pilot program is intended to become an annual offering for Georgia educators from Georgia Bio, the state’s life sciences industry association.
Georgia’s biotechnology and medical device industry have grown at a rapid pace in recent years according to a recently released report from TEConomy & the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. According to the report, “the state’s bioscience firms have grown their employment base by 10.6 percent since 2014 and employed just over 32,000 in 2016. Companies have also expanded their establishment count by 16 percent during this same period and now operate 2,431 across the state.” Indicators like these show the need for preparing the workforce for this high-paying STEM sector.
“This was one of the best professional development experiences I have been a part of,” said Iesha Harrison, biology teacher at South Cobb High School. “The resources and contacts that I have made will serve me well. I will be a better educator as a result.”
The five-day workshop immersed teachers in basic and advanced laboratory methods, from using a micropipette, preparing buffer solutions and agar plates, and maintaining sterile technique, to transforming bacteria with plasmids, running gel electrophoresis, PCR, ELISA, and hydrophobic interaction chromatography. The sessions were led by 2017 Georgia Bio teacher of the year, Marc Pedersen, and his wife Tricia Pedersen, both biology and biotechnology instructors at the Paulding County High School Academy of Science, Research, and Medicine. The Pedersens shared lab protocols and teaching tips and discussed how to obtain the necessary equipment and supplies.
“We wanted to help teachers overcome the barriers that prevent them from implementing lab activities in the classroom,” said Jordan Rose, the workshop’s facilitator and consultant with Georgia Bio. “Equipping teachers with the confidence, skills, knowledge, and resources to implement labs will help them to prepare their students for the rigors of post-secondary education and the entry-level requirements of biotech careers.”
Teachers’ confidence in their knowledge, skills, and readiness in relation to teaching laboratory activities increased by 45% compared to self-ratings made before the workshop. “My confidence has elevated. I am not afraid to do something wrong in the lab,” said Roberta Axson, biotechnology instructor at Newton College & Career Academy.
Interspersed with the lab activities were guest speakers, including professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT), Mercer University College of Pharmacy, IHRC, Applied Bioinformatics Laboratory (ABiL), Saol Therapeutics, and workshop sponsor UCB. The teachers were exposed to a variety of bioscience career types; after the workshop, teachers were able to name 23 new careers in the life sciences that they had not thought of previously.
One of the highlights of the workshop was a design-thinking challenge, facilitated by experts from The STE(A)M Truck, a mobile makerspace. This activity centered around the real-life experiences of a Paulding County High School student living with epilepsy. In a deeply personal storytelling session, the student shared the physical and social challenges he experiences daily. Teachers created and prototyped solutions to address these challenges, including wearable technologies and biosensors. The session provided context for the biotechnology laboratory activities that would follow during the workshop, serving as an introduction to a patient-centered approach in the life sciences industry that seeks to develop innovative pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other technologies to improve our health.
“At UCB we’re committed to supporting science education in the greater Atlanta area and engaging the next generation of scientists and innovators. We’re proud to support this program for teachers to enhance Georgia schools and help prepare the future STEM workforce,” said Stephanie Hunter-Banks, Director, Patient and Stakeholder Experience – Neurology at UCB.
Additionally, a handful of students from the Paulding County High School biotechnology program served as laboratory assistants for the workshop, helping to prepare the labs and guide the teachers to refine their laboratory techniques. Other students shared their independent research projects to give the teachers an idea of what their own students could accomplish by applying these lab skills. In the end, the participating teachers created action plans outlining how they would bring these labs and lessons back to their own classrooms to cultivate the next generation of life science leaders.
About Georgia BioEd Institute
The Georgia BioEd Institute is a division of Georgia Bio, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving the state’s life science industry. The Institute’s mission is to strengthen Georgia’s life sciences workforce pipeline through classroom-to-career initiatives that align with industry needs. Georgia BioEd Institute is building the capacity of Georgia classrooms to support the future life science workforce with teacher professional development in biotechnology, an equipment depot, and the BioGENEius award for student biotechnology projects. Learn more at http://georgiabioed.org.
At UCB, everything we do starts with a simple question: “How will this make a difference to the lives of people living with severe diseases?” We have a passionate, long-term commitment to discovering and developing innovative medicines that transform the lives of people living with severe diseases. We do that by connecting with patients and their families around the world living with the physical and social burdens of severe disease. Those connections offer new perspectives, drive innovation, and offer the hope of a new generation of therapies that are helping to transform lives.
With a team of approximately 7,500 employees and operations in more than 40 countries, we are a global biopharmaceutical company investing more than a quarter of our revenue in cutting-edge scientific research to meet unmet patient needs. Global headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium, with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Additional U.S. UCB sites include global clinical development at our Research Triangle Park, North Carolina campus (UCB Biosciences, Inc.), and research supporting UCB’s pipeline in Cambridge, Massachusetts. UCB is listed on Euronext Brussels (symbol: UCB).