Archive for March, 2012

Welding: A Job That Can’t Be Outsourced

Friday, March 16th, 2012
Credit: Howard Woodward/American Welding Society

Credit: Howard Woodward/American Welding Society

If over the course of the past few days, you’ve ridden in a car, traveled across a bridge, or stepped inside a building, you’ve benefited from the work of welders. There’s hardly an industry in existence that doesn’t make use of welded materials, whether its transportation (automotive, shipbuilding and aerospace, for example), energy (mining, petrochemical extraction and refining), defense or construction.

In fact, more than 50 percent of all products made in the United States require some type of welding, according to the American Welding Society (AWS). So, not surprisingly, today’s job market for welders is strong. As AWS Executive Director Ray Shook has noted, “From an overall economic standpoint, it is a great time to become a welder as there are jobs available all over the world,” adding that nearly 100 percent of all welding school graduates find positions right away.

But, surprisingly, these jobs are going unfilled. According to the U.S. Department of Labor today there are 4 million fewer people working in skilled labor positions, such as welding, than there were 20 years ago.

ATE’s Weld-Ed National Center for Welding Education and Training is working to revive the country’s focus on welding and draw attention to this plentiful job market. Located at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, Weld-Ed also has nine additional community college and university partners including Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Honolulu Community College, Illinois Central College, North Dakota State College of Science, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Texas State Technical College, Yuba (CA) College, The Ohio State University and Weber State University (Utah).

Weld-Ed helps connect educational institutions and the welding industry, supporting state-of-the-art welding labs and learning-skills resources that are transferable to today’s industrial jobs. Weld-Ed also works to recruit and educate welding technicians.

According to the website Careers in Welding, there are more than 80 different welding processes, including Gas Metal Arc Welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding and Shielded Metal Arc Welding. The field is growing increasingly high-tech, with welders now being trained to operate robots and other automated systems that use powerful lasers, electron beams and even explosives to bond materials. Computers and computer software play increasingly important roles in these automated systems. Furthermore, welding is expanding beyond a metal-based field to include materials such as polymers, plastics, ceramics and man-made fibers, among other materials.

And, as crucial as welding is for our economy, it’s also critically important for our safety, as the country works to repair and replace highway bridges, refurbish energy production plants and maintain and construct new petrochemical production and refining facilities, many of which were built over 50 years ago. As ASW Executive Direction Ray Shook told the National Science Foundation Discovery Website, “While economy is always an issue in manufactured products, it is often surpassed by safety concerns in one-of-a-kind constructions. We are bound…to ensure that public structures such as buildings, roads and bridges will perform as intended, and welding plays a big role in making sure that happens.”

You can learn more about this growing field and career opportunities at these websites:
Welding School Locator
Jobs in Welding
Job Salaries

Lab Resources from ATE

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Did you know that some Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Projects and Programs offer a lot of resources for teaching Biotechnology and Lab skills? From free instructional materials and curriculum to career profiles and advice for connecting with employers, ATE programs like Bio-Link are invaluable to students, instructors and employers alike and a good place to start your research on launching a career in this field.

Here is just a sampling of what we found from the clearing house and Bio-Link as it relates to molecular biology and DNA research in particular:

Step-by- Step Tutorials for Selected Lab Activities
This is a collection of html and PowerPoint slides that break down selected lab activities and DNA research for instruction at Iowa State University.

Teaching Unit 6: Basics of Molecular Cloning (Blue/White Selection)

This is a free unit that “describes the methods and development of molecular cloning and blue/white selection. The laboratory is a math-intensive protocol that takes students from excising a gene fragment through subcloning, transformation, and gene expression.”

Career videos from the National Human Genome Research Institute
This site offers many videos profiling many different careers available to students studying DNA research. Interested in a career in forensics for example? Want to know what that looks like first-hand? Well, this site is the place to go! Here, students can meet Dr. Lois Tully, a forensic scientist with the U.S. Department of Justice and associate of the Human Identity Project with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Teach.Genetics from the University of Utah

On this site you will find “a wealth of resources and information aimed at helping educators bring genetics, bioscience and health alive in the classroom.” In addition Teach.Genetics offers “tools and resources to support your curriculum, all free of charge.” An example of one lesson that you can access is a color-by-number comparison of PET scan images showing activity in a drug-free brain and the brain of a former cocaine addict.

There are many resources to answer all questions and address each need. They cover a variety of demographics and age ranges. There is for example, a high school lesson from the Biotechnology Education and Training Sequence Investment (BETSI) at Southwestern College on the amplification of Mitochondria DNA.

Sometimes the most difficult thing about walking down a career path is being confident with each step when you do not know what lies ahead. For those making this journey and the people supporting them, what makes a difference and helps to better navigate the twists and turns is the information that is available to them. The professionals in charge of each ATE program and project know this and have worked to compile all the high-quality, available resources that exist within their fields and industries. Perhaps Biotechnology is not your area of interest, but Agriculture or Information Technology is instead? Well, check out atecenters.org for information on other advanced technologies.

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.