Science education

Students in the United States take many convoluted and unnecessarily complicated paths when it comes to finding careers in biotechnology. If Universities and community colleges worked together, an alternative path could benefit all parties; students, schools, industry, and the community. The image below illustrates the current paths and the approximate time that each one takes.
What are you learning in school? xkcd has the inside track on the really important stuff.
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I'm in Berkeley right now at the annual Bio-Link Summer Fellows forum. We're getting to hear talks from people in the biotech industry, listen to enthusiastic instructors describe their biotech programs and ideas, and try out new educational materials. Yesterday, two speakers (Damon Tighe and Jason Baumohl) from the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, CA, gave a fun talk about DNA sequencing and sequence assembly. They also showed some very nice Flash animations, made by Damon Tighe, at the JGI, that illustrate how DNA sequencing is done ... Read more
A little over ten years ago, Dr. Elaine Johnson obtained funding from the National Science Foundation to start Bio-Link, an Advanced Technology Education center, focused on biotechnology. Since that time, Dr. Johnson has become a national leader in biotech education, enlisting the country's top educators and industry captains to ensure that community college students receive a quality education and the best preparation possible for entering the workforce. In this radio interview from Tech Nation, Dr. Johnson talks with Dr. Moira Gunn about the ... Read more
In part I, I wrote about my first semester of teaching on-line and talked about our challenges with technology. Blackboard had a database corruption event during finals week and I had all kinds of struggles with the Windows version of Microsoft Excel. Mike wrote and asked if I thought students should be working more with non-Microsoft software and what I thought the challenges would be in doing so. I can answer with a totally unqualified "it depends." ... Read more
On-line courses were a still a new phenomenon when I was teaching full-time. Our school was pretty gung-ho about on-line education but many instructors were skeptical, some were still lamenting having to learn how to use a computer and losing the services that used to be provided by departmental secretaries. Other instructors simply distrusted the entire idea, seeing distance learning as the equivalent of an educational scam, a kind of "get rich quick scheme" that would allow the school to collect more tuition dollars without paying instructors. I never did teach an on-line ... Read more
In part I, I wrote about the shortage of technicians in the biotechnology industry and the general awareness that this problem is getting worse. This part will address the challenge of getting more students into programs that will prepare them for jobs in the biotech field. I've also been asked to write a bit more about finding jobs in companies, that post will be a bit later. Before proceeding, there are two points that need a bit of discussion. The first point is the whether there's a ... Read more
Students, teachers and scientists converge tommorrow morning from all around the Puget Sound region and elsewhere in Washington to share their experiences and talk about science. The students will present posters, science-themed music, art, drama, and many different types of projects that involved first-hand research and investigation. Scientists from the local biotech companies and research institutions talk with the students and judge the projects. The public viewing time is tomorrow, May 28th, between 9 am-12 noon at the Meydenbauer Center. More information can be found ... Read more
Workforce shortages are a growing problem in the biotech industry. Communities are concerned that a lack of trained workers will either keep companies away or cause companies to move. If companies do have to move, it's likely those jobs might be lost forever, never to return. According to Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, now a professor at UC-Berkeley, biotech companies that can't hire in the U.S. will recruit foreign workers or open research centers overseas (Luke Timmerman, Seattle PI). ... Read more
Dave Robinson and Joann Lau from Bellarmine College in Kentucky are going to be describing their student project in a free webinar next Friday, May 16th. Their students clone GAPDH (Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) genes from new plants, assemble the DNA sequences, and submit them to the NCBI. Here's an example. Plus, since GAPDH is a highly conserved, it's a great model for looking at ... Read more

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