Jamestown Community College's biotechnology department is about to get a whole lot better.
JCC announced at a board of trustees meeting late Tuesday afternoon that the department would receive a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will be distributed over the next three years and will support biotechnology training for both high school teachers and JCC students. The award is facilitated through HURI SURI, a collaborative program to provide undergraduate research opportunities for JCC and area high school students.
"Through this project, students at JCC will have exposure to biotechnology, a growing field with employment opportunities," said Jose Herrera, program director at the National Science Foundation. "The project provides for connections with institutions in their state and region and opportunities to make a transition to a program at a four-year college."
HURI SURI complements a $3.5 million NSF grant received in 2011 by the biotechnology programs at JCC, Finger Lakes Community College, Tompkins-Cortland Community College and Delaware Technical and Community College to support expanded research opportunities and disseminate undergraduate research nationwide to other community colleges.
"JCC's biotechnology program curriculum has included undergraduate research experiences nearly since its inception," noted Jacqueline M. Crisman, principal investigator of the HURI SURI award and coordinator of JCC's biotechnology program. "Undergraduate research is a very effective way to teach science, and we have implemented it in our program because we, as well as the National Science Foundation and other science organizations, believe it is the most effective means to inspire our students to go into science."
The HURI SURI program provides area teachers with full support to attend biotechnology boot camps and undergraduate research experiences at JCC. After completion of this training, biotechnology equipment and supplies are available for high schools to integrate those experiences in their schools by offering an innovative new first semester biology course with research-based labs.
"Our biotechnology students don't just learn about science," said Ellen Lehning, associate professor of biology at JCC and co-principal investigator on the award. "They actually do science. Our students study the evolutionary relationship between mosquitoes, heartworms, bacteria, and viruses. And they do this research in collaboration with leading researchers from the University of Rochester in evolution and genetics, who will also participate in our biotech boot camps."
JCC's biotechnology students will also benefit in their second year of study. The grant will support summer research experiences at Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State University, University at Buffalo, University of Rochester and St. Bonaventure University.
"For me, this grant is about leveling the playing field for the economically disadvantaged in our area by providing cutting edge experiences in the sciences," stressed Dr. Crisman. "For many of our students these types of opportunities were out of reach."