Promoting rural student enthusiasm for STEM by establishing a model biotechnology company in their high school

Matt Koci, NC State University

The jobs of the 21st century require a higher level of skill, training, and practical competency in science than our high schools are currently able to provide students. This is especially true for students in rural and under-served communities. To ensure the ability of these students to find stable and lucrative careers, we need to develop novel teaching approaches that provide better workforce development while attracting students to careers in science. This project seeks to address this issue by establishing a recombinant protein expression “mini-biotech company” in the Bertie Early College High School, in Windsor, North Carolina. This mini-biotech company serves as the platform to teach Essential and Common Core Standards of biology and chemistry. By going through the steps of initial process development, process scale-up, production, and validation to ultimately produce recombinant proteins, the students get a better understanding of the concepts, technologies, inter-relatedness of the different fields. Additionally, the students are producing proteins for active university research projects related to the industries in Bertie County. This helps the students gain a fuller appreciation for how science and biotechnology are related to the jobs in their community and better plot their own path to a science-based career. Over the course of this project, the students developed mentoring networks with university faculty and scientists at various biotechnology companies. They have also attended local and national scientific meetings. Collectively the participants in this program gain practical work relevant experience leading to an understanding of biotechnology beyond most undergraduate students.

Poster link