Archive for the ‘Careers’ Category

Discovering What is Possible in the Lab

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Over the course of this week and next, ATETV will be looking more closely at the field of Biotechnology and its work in the lab by answering questions like, “What does a college class look like in this field?” and “What are the jobs like?” According to the Biotechnology Institute, Biotechnology is “the use of living organisms by humans” Biotechnologists look at organisms, their biochemistry, and their genes in order to create commercial products. The demand for this work is large and according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics “… projected to grow 21 percent over the 2008—18 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations, as biotechnological research and development continues to drive job growth.”

One alluring aspect of a career as a Biotechnologist and more specifically, life in the lab, is the potential to be a part of an exciting discovery! In the future, Biotechnology could produce organisms that would generate enough energy to reduce the need for electricity, medicines to cure diseases like cancer and genetically engineered food to sustain us. Here are some of the great discoveries we found reported:

1) DNA- DNA is perhaps one of the most fundamental discoveries to further the science of Biology. It is the blueprint of biological life from its inception to its growth and till death. It is what supplies the necessary information to cells to get them to reproduce. There are many different ideas about who should get credit for finding this and regarding the circumstances of its discovery. But one thing is for sure, its discovery has not only revolutionized science and medicine but it has affected all walks of life; whether they are medical, social, legal, criminal or related to genetics and inheritance.

2) According to Discovery.com, scientists at Harvard recently discovered a way to genetically engineer an organism to sense magnetic fields. This could be invaluable for the fields of medicine and research. One example of what could be made possible from this includes targeted therapies for diseases like cancer. By delivering magnetism to certain cell types, like cancer cells, researchers could track the cells in the body using MRI, thus making treatments more effective.

3) Imagine the possibilities if bacteria could be used to boost fuel cell power? Also according to Discovery.com, researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K discovered a species of a bacteria that lives in an environment similar to that which exists about 18 miles above the earth’s surface. According to this article, this “bacteria generate current as they eat, by releasing electrons during chemical reactions.” This led scientists to test them for power generation and the results proved positive. While this method doesn’t generate a lot of power, it does produce enough to light a light bulb and presents interesting possibilities for the future of renewable energy!

4) Cloning. According to Wikipedia, “Cloning in Biology is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually. Cloning in Biotechnology refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments (molecular cloning), cells (cell cloning), or organisms.” In 1997 researchers in Scotland achieved the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell; a sheep named Dolly. Since that time, other reported successful attempts at cloning include another sheep named Polly, a cat in 2001 at Texas A&M University, cattle, a deer and two goats- just to name a few.

5) What if you could train your immune system to fight cancer? This is a question that researchers have been exploring and doctors have recently begun to apply to treatments. In this article in the New York Times, William Ludwig was successfully treated for Leukemia using a protocol developed from the results of these studies. Doctors “removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors— and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.” Genetically altering T-cells is a concept that was first developed in the 1980s by Dr. Zelig Eshhar at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Published Biotechnology timelines like this one, further reveal that there have been many more discoveries made that are of critical importance to solving the problems we face today. It is an exciting field to be a part of not only because the possibilities are endless but also because the work is loaded with the potential to make significant impacts on our future and as a result in demand. When you break down any living organism to its smallest elements of a cell, or a DNA composition and begin to experiment with that, anything is truly possible.

Blast Off!

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Space Shuttle

Last week millions of spectators gathered at the Kennedy Space Center and many millions more tuned in via TV or Web to watch history being made as the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis ended the shuttle program’s 30 years of flight.

Although the four shuttle astronauts are often the face of the space program, there are scores of people working behind the scenes. According to a recent feature story on the NASA website, a group of specially certified United Space Alliance Aerospace Technicians called spacecraft operators function as the “eyes, ears and hands” of the Shuttle Test Team at Kennedy Space Center. This group serves as an integral part of the processing and test teams that ensure the shuttle is ready to fly. As Spacecraft Operator Bill Powers notes in the article, “Our job is to make sure when [the astronauts] get in the [shuttle], there aren’t any surprises.”

There’s no question, Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians keep things running smoothly. Part of a highly skilled, technical team that supports equipment and systems designed to launch, track, position and evaluate air and space vehicles, these technicians operate, install, calibrate and maintain the integrated computer/communications systems consoles, simulators and other instruments designed to acquire data, test and measure. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 30 percent of the current aerospace technician workforce will be retiring in the next six years, creating plenty of new job opportunities, which might range from positions in aerospace product and parts manufacturing, to air transportation support activities, facilities support services and scientific research and development services.

If these sound like intriguing professions, you might want to check out SpaceTEC. Made up of ten partner institutions in nine states, and headquartered at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, SpaceTEC is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in a career as an Aerospace technician. SpaceTEC provides educational materials, supports student recruitment and outreach activities to foster interest in aerospace and STEM subjects, maintains a national network of industry partners and promotes professional development opportunities for educators and practitioners. SpaceTEC’s National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education, based at Kennedy Space Center, additionally provides professional certification in several areas.

Besides Brevard, participating SpaceTEC schools and programs include Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, California; Calhoun Community College in Huntsville, Alabama; the Community College of the Air Force in Montgomery, Alabama; Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies; Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia; and Tulsa Technical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Check out the individual web sites for lots more information on the field of aerospace technology, educational requirements, and job openings.

Small is the New Big Idea

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Fuel Cell Technology: Small is the New Big Idea

Imagine a fuel source that can run on natural gas and propane — or soybean oil and used cooking oil. Or even farm waste.

Well, it’s not just an imaginary scenario, it’s a real and thriving industry known as fuel cell technology, and it’s being used today to create locally generated electricity in rural farm areas, military battle zones and other hard-to-reach places beyond the range of the standard electrical grid.

The subject of a recent report on the CBS News program, “60 Minutes,” the promise of fuel cell technology lies in its ability to generate the equivalent of a “power plant in a box,” replacing massive power plants and the transmission line grid in the same way that laptop computers have partially replaced desktop computers or the way cell phones have replaced many land-line phones.

A fuel cell is a two-inch disk made of ceramic that converts fuel into electricity and heat using an electrochemical process many times cleaner, quieter and less polluting than engines and turbines. Because a single fuel cell generates about 0.7 volts of electricity, hundreds of fuel cells are combined in a “stack” to generate enough energy to power a motor.

Fuel cell systems decrease our carbon footprints and provide important alternative energy options. By generating electricity through an electrochemical reaction, rather than from a combustion process as would occur in an automobile engine, there’s no need for burning or combustion and no need for power lines from an outside source. Compared to a battery, which uses an electrochemical reaction to produce a finite amount of energy, fuel cells produce electricity continuously as long as they are provided fuel — whether it be diesel, kerosene or vegetable oil. (For an interactive explanation of how fuel cells work, visit the General Motors Education website.)

Technology Management, Inc. (TMI) has been developing fuel cells for the past two decades, and according to their website, fuel cells provide a unique source of power generation for several important reasons: 1) They are modular. Unlike solar, wind, diesel or natural-gas generators, fuel cells are compact in size and can be placed anywhere there is a fuel supply. 2) They are clean. Compared to generators, which produce noise, odor and air pollution — including lethal carbon monoxide — fuel cells are clean, quiet and safe for indoor use. 3) They are efficient. Fuel cells are at least twice as efficient as a gas engine or turbine at producing electricity. In addition, fuel cells produce clean heat which can be used for cooling as well as heating. 4) They are scalable. Fuel cells are modular which means that each individual system enjoys the same high efficiency regardless of size and can be used as “energy building blocks.” You simply add more to get more power, demonstrating that bigger is not always better.

Today, in partnership with Stark State College and Lockheed Martin, TMI is developing a fuel cell military application that promises to greatly reduce the need for a front-line unit to transport and secure large quantities of gasoline or diesel fuel on the battlefield. Delivering this fuel is expensive and dangerous, but by reducing the need for petroleum at outlying military installations, the long truck convoys required to deliver fuel (which are especially vulnerable to enemy attack) can be reduced, saving costs as well as safeguarding soldiers’ lives.

TMI is also developing a small-scale fuel-cell-driven power system that could be placed on thousands of small farms in rural America or tens of thousands of rural villages in the third world to bring power to customers in remote locales. As TMI CEO Benson Lee puts it, “Small is the new big idea.”

To hear a presentation by Benson Lee about the role of fuel cell technology in today’s marketplace, including its role in solving global social problems, click here.

ATETV Episode 22: More on Green Jobs and Industry Partnerships; Plus, Computer Careers

Monday, February 15th, 2010

This week, we’re continuing with a couple of topics from recent weeks: industry partnerships and green jobs. We’re also profiling a young father who’s fitting in his own homework in computer security between helping his kids with theirs.

First, we head to Bristol Community College to profile the partnership between the ATE program there and the local environmental and mechanical engineering industries. At Bristol, that partnership translates to input on curriculum via an industrial advisory board, and access to valuable internships like the one student Mike Poitras completed at a desalination plant.

Mike’s position at the plant is the kind of job that can’t be outsourced. The same goes for the energy technician jobs that Sinclair Community College is training its students to fill. The demand for these positions making buildings more energy efficient already outstrips the supply of workers, and the gap is widening. “The problem is not going to be a market” for these service, predicts Mike Train of Certified Energy Raters LLC. “It’s going to be having boots on the ground to service that market.”

One reason energy conservation is becoming a hot topic is the amount of electricity that our computers and other digital devices are consuming. At Springfield Technical Community College, student Francisco Nofal studying computer security, another hot career in our increasingly wired world. Francisco enrolled at STCC after a layoff. Now he’s balancing his studies with being a husband and father. “I get homework, they get homework, so I can’t do mine when I get home. I gotta wait, help them with theirs.”

Hopefully for Francisco all that homework will pay off, for him and his kids. Tune in next week for three more ATE success stories like his!

ATETV Episode 21: Industry/Community College Partnerships

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Last week we focused on the demand for technician jobs, green and otherwise. This week we’re looking at how community colleges are teaming up with industry leaders to meet that demand.

“We couldn’t exist without the technical college,” says Jill Heiden of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products in South Carolina. “They create the students that help us produce our products.”

And because these students are so vital, industry has taken an active role in their education. “Industry partners are valuable at helping you develop curriculum in the college,” says Elaine Craft, head of the South Carolina ATE Center. “You discuss what it is that they need and how you can best meet those needs.”

That industry/education partnership is going strong in South Carolina, but it’s an important part of ATE programs across the country. At The College of the Mainland in Texas, Process Technology students like Umair Virani are learning how to use the same equipment in the field at major oil refineries. Umair actually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he decided he wanted hands-on experience that would let him work in an environment outside the lab.

Finally, we visit the Video Simulation and Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College, which is located near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, a hotbed of the game industry. Wake Technical’s Kai Wang says one of the missions of the program is “trying to meet local industry demand” from those game makers.

To accomplish that, the school asks the industry for input. “We work very closely with industry representatives, advisory committees, and they really drive what we train individuals on,” explains Wake’s Robert Grove. “When students are finished with us, they are ready to enter the workforce because we have designed that program based upon what they have told us to do.”

Whether it’s video game design, oil refining or high-tech manufacturing, employers are looking for specific skills. By working with them directly, community colleges are making sure that the lessons they are teaching are preparing students for the real world.

Growing Green Jobs

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Last week’s State of the Union address was all about jobs, and one promising avenue for job growth the President highlighted is the new green economy.

In his speech, Obama framed the need to invest in those types of jobs in terms of keeping pace with international competitors like China, Germany and India. “These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”

Indeed, according to a New York Times report, China is now the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and is making gains in other green fields as well.

If America wants to keep up, ATE programs at community colleges will be vital to training new green workers and retraining older workers for new green jobs. Perhaps that’s why President Obama repeated his call for more funding for community colleges in his speech last week, calling them “a career pathway for the children of many working families.”

There are two sides to greening the economy: investing in new renewable energy projects or cleaner transportation infrastructure like high-speed rail; and improving energy efficiency in order to better conserve heat and electricity. We saw an example of each of these types of green jobs in this week’s episode. At Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, students are learning how to operate and maintain the wind turbines that are popping up across the West.

Meanwhile, at Sinclair Community College, students are working with local affordable housing groups to conduct green energy audits and weatherize homes. And both of these types of jobs need to be done here, in America; they can’t be sent overseas.

The hope is that last year’s unprecedented federal investment in basic scientific research will seed a new green manufacturing sector, building advanced batteries and solar cells. That will mean new green jobs for laid-off manufacturing workers, but first they’ll be need to be retrained. And ATE programs at community colleges across the country will be on the front lines of that training.

Click here to read about some of the green job titles expected to see the biggest growth in the coming years.

ATETV Episode 20: It’s All about Jobs

Monday, February 1st, 2010

ATETV hits a milestone with its 20th episode this week, and we’re marking the occasion by focusing on the issue of jobs and the needs of our workforce. In particular, this week we look at how ATE programs are training students for work in the new green economy, and to meet the high demand for technicians in many fields.

First, we head out to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Jonathan Terry is studying to be a wind turbine technician. Jonathan actually has a bachelor’s degree in international business, but he went back to school because he saw that wind energy is a growing industry.

Jonathan’s story illustrates a larger issue we cover in our second segment this week: the need for skilled technicians in many industries, from green tech to lab work. “The ability for the two-year community colleges to deliver these workers as quickly as they can, this is an area that has become critical to the United States economic position in the world,” says Ellen Bemben of the Regional Technology Corporation.

Finally, we take a look at one specific type of green job that’s in high demand. Sinclair Community College is partnering with affordable housing groups to conduct energy audits and weatherize homes. “It creates an awareness about what can be gained from energy efficiency,” says Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert. “And the possibilities for our students in the job market just keeps increasing and increasing.”

As the country continues to focus on creating more opportunities for the future, students should look into community colleges as a fast, cost-effective way to prepare for secure, in-demand careers.

If I were to do it again… career advice from a STEM grad

Monday, January 18th, 2010

This week, we have a post from a guest blogger. Nicholas Lloyd, 27, is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnical Institute who lives in Ashland, Mass. He currently works as a software engineer, but, as he explains below, he came to college interested in biology. Here he describes how he used networking and internships to find a career he truly loves.

For the past few years now I have been working as a software engineer. I am very happy on this path, but it was not the first that I chose for myself. I first studied and even got a degree in biology, with aspirations of working in a lab for a pharmaceutical company.

When I was first looking for colleges, I honestly wasn’t thinking about what would happen after. I knew what I was interested in — biology, at the time — and I wanted a school with a solid program that also felt like a good fit for me.

But towards the end of my freshman year, the real world didn’t seem so far away. I started thinking more about what I would actually do afterwards, particularly as I searched for summer internships. I came to the rather startling realization that I really didn’t know what a biologist or biotech professional actually did.

To find out, that summer I managed to get an internship at a biotech start-up doing computational biology: basically, using computer programming to help the scientists with their work in the lab. That internship helped me in two different ways: it was the foundation that helped me get internships later on, and it showed me that there was more to biotech then just “working in a lab.”

In fact, doing internships probably helped me the most of all I did in my career exploration. Since they usually give you a taste of what is to come, they are a great way to help you land that first job after college. My college career center was a fantastic way to find internships, and as I discovered, it never hurts to use any networking resources you have, including your family.

Looking back, I wish I looked more closely at what kind of jobs would interest me as early as high school. I knew what subjects interested me, but I found out much later that most of the opportunities in that area were far from what I wanted to do. On top of that, it took me a while before I knew what questions to ask, and even longer to figure out WHERE I could find the answers.

Knowing the right questions, asking around to find the right people, and getting as much experience as you can before graduating — either high school or college — can help immensely to find the direction you want to go. Take the time now; it can make a difference!

ATETV Episode 16: ATE in Virtual and Real Worlds

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Technology is changing the way we interact with the physical world; it even lets us create entire digital realities that exist only within a computer. This week we look at three ATE programs operating at different spots on the spectrum between reality and virtual reality.

First, we visit the simulation and game development program at Wake Technical Community College, where students are immersed in virtual worlds of their own design. The curriculum is intense; student Ryan Snell recalls a class where he had to make a new video game every two weeks. “It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” he says. Another student, Aisha Eskandari, is adding a side project to her course load, coding a simulation to teach people CPR. Her work is a good example of virtual reality having a positive impact on the real world.

Another blending of the real and virtual is geospatial technology, which creates digital maps of the physical world. Central Piedmont Community College is spreading the word about this growing field by reaching out to high school students. “Students can take our courses free of charge while in high school, and get college credit as well as high school credit, and earn a certificate before they ever come here as a college student,” says Central Piedmont’s Rodney Jackson.

If geospatial technology straddles the real and the virtual, civil engineering is all about building the infrastructure that makes the real world work. That’s the appeal for Bristol Community College student Vittorio Pascal, who’s come back to school to change careers. “I like the possibility of a work environment where I’m not necessarily crammed into a four-by-four cube.”

Whether you want to work out in field like Vittorio or are more comfortable in front of a computer, chances are there’s an ATE program that will appeal to you.

ATE and This Year’s Hottest Gifts

Monday, January 4th, 2010

We talk a lot on this blog about the practical, real-world application of ATE programs. In keeping with the holiday spirit, we’re going to do that this week by taking a look at some of the loot you might be playing with this winter break.

GPS: Perhaps you got a GPS device for your car this year, or a new smartphone with GPS capabilities. If so, you’re part of the growing number of consumers making use of Geospatial Information Services (GIS), a hot field that keeps coming up on ATETV. GIS has major industrial applications as well, from agricultural technology to environmental engineering.

3-D & CGI: One of the hottest movies this holiday season has been Avatar, which is pushing the boundaries of 3-D and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The same can be said for the hottest video games, which every year get closer and closer to photorealism. If you’re a sci-fi fan or avid gamer, you might considering enrolling in an ATE program in game design, simulation design or drafting and graphics engineering at your local community college. New technology is even letting students “print” their designs as 3-D models.

Gadgets: When it comes to geek gifts, Internet connectivity is the latest trend. From smartphones that can surf the Web to e-readers that download books wirelessly to HDTVs that can plug directly into a home network, the hottest gadgets rely on the ’Net for their killer features. In Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programs like the one at Springfield Technical Community College, students learn how to keep networks online and secure.

Science Gifts: Then there are the classic gifts for the science-minded: microscopes, chemistry sets and remote-control robotics kits. If you received one of these gifts, you might enjoy an ATE program. Biotechnology student Shain Eighmey got his first microscope when he was five, a gift that sparked a lifelong interest in biology. More mechanically inclined? At Bristol Community College, students graduate from Erector sets and radio-controlled cars to building fully functional underwater robots.

So as you’re enjoying your gifts from this past holiday season, think about the science and technology that goes into them. Maybe you’ll be inspired to look into an ATE program!