Posts Tagged ‘Gwinnett Technical College’

A Wealth of Educational Opportunities in Biotech

Friday, September 16th, 2011


Nearly 25 years ago, the Biotechnology Project at Madison Area Technical College was one of the first Biotech programs to be created at a community college. “We’ve been around since 1987, so we actually have a fairly long history,” notes program instructor Lisa Seidman. “This program was started when Biotechnology was a very, very small industry, really at the beginning of the Biotechnology revolution. So we’ve been a part of it since the very beginning.”

Since then, the field of Biotechnology has exploded, as groundbreaking scientific discoveries and technological developments have emerged with unprecedented speed. And, Biotech training and education programs have kept pace. Today, more than 50 community colleges and technical schools around the United States offer degrees and certificates in various aspects of the Biotech industry according to Bio-Link, a national consortium and clearinghouse for technician education.

This week’s ATETV Episode sat in on a number of Biotech classes; we decided to continue the exploration and take a look at some of the degree and certificate programs available in the field of Biotech.

Biotechnology Associate Degrees prepare students to work in such areas as Biotechnology research and development. Emphasizing “hands-on” learning, these two-year programs help familiarize students with cutting-edge scientific techniques, technologies and equipment. Among other subjects, students typically gain a working knowledge of molecular biology, recombinant DNA, immunology, protein purification and tissue cultures, through both classroom lectures and laboratory learning experiences. Foundational courses in English, as well as a variety of math and science disciplines (i.e. algebra, statistics, chemistry, biology, microbiology and computer science) are also often part of the program.

There are two types of Associate Degrees. The first is the Associate of Applied Science degree (A.A.A.S. or A.A.S.) a professional technical degree designed to prepare students to directly enter the workforce. The second are Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees. These also prepare students for jobs, but focus more on course work that can be transferred to four-year institutions.

Check out Bio-Link, for a full list of the more than 50 schools around the country that offer Associate’s Degrees in Biotechnology.

Today, many community colleges have also developed Certificate Programs focusing on specialized aspects of Biotech. Certificate programs generally require fewer credits than Associate Degrees. At Madison Area Technical College, for example, a Bioinformatics Certificate delves into the specifics of Bioinformatics, the application of Information Technology to the management and analysis of biological data. This program helps students develop the expertise needed for employment as Bioinformatics programmers and Genomics technicians — both growing fields — and is designed for students who have already had some college experience in the life sciences. The program includes introductory courses in Bioinformatics and Genomics as well as programming; website development; relational database coding; and networking operations, among others.

Another specialized area of certification is Biomanufacturing/Bioprocessing. These programs prepare students for entry-level positions in Biomanufacturing facilities, where living cells or their components – bacteria or enzymes, for example – are used to manufacture products, such as biofuels and therapeutics. One example is the Bioprocess Technology Program at MiraCosta College, which according to a recent profile in Science Careers, offers courses that focus on laboratory skills, Bioprocess technology and the production and analysis of biofuels.

Another specialized Certificate Program related to the Biotech field is Clinical Research Professional (CRP) certification. CRPs perform human research studies on the effects of new drugs and medical devices to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new therapies for the treatment of human disease. CRPs work in both biotech and pharmaceutical companies, as well as medical research labs, government labs and contract research organizations.

Students in CRP Certificate Programs like the one at Oklahoma City Community College learn clinical research site procedures, governmental and local regulatory affairs methods, experimental design and statistics, and technical reading and writing skills focusing on clinical research applications, as well as Bioethics.

Heading in a different direction, specialized Biotech Certificates are also available for Environmental Laboratory Technologists. At Georgia’s Gwinnett Technical College, for example, the program, which is two quarters long, prepares students to work in laboratories associated with environmental management, notably drinking water purification, waste water management and pollution remediation facilities. Specific courses include Regulatory Compliance, Environmental Testing Methodology, Environmental Pollution and Remediation and Water and Wastewater Laboratory Methods.

You may not have considered that medical devices are also a key component of the Biotech Industry. Products that are used to diagnose medical conditions, aid in surgical procedures or used as part of a therapy, medical devices include everything from artificial hearts to genetic tests, to X-ray machines, blood-sugar meters and tongue depressors.

A Medical Devices Certificate, such as one offered by Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington (Indiana) familiarizes students with the regulatory principles that are used in medical-device manufacturing, and in addition to a Biotechnology curriculum, includes courses in Medical Terminology, Quality Systems in Manufacturing and Medical Device Design and CAD Fundamentals.

Bio-Link can provide you with still more information about Biotech certificate programs, such as those focusing on Quality Control at Bergen Community College, and Associate’s Degree programs like the Regulatory Affairs Associate’s Degree offered at Ivy Tech.