Mesa puts biotech on fast track (Arizona Republic article)

July 10, 2006

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Josh Kelley, Arizona Republic] — Educators in Mesa have devised a novel strategy to attract young people to the burgeoning field of biotechnology. This fall, students will begin decoding the genome of a bacterium as part of a research project that will stretch from high school through college. The project will involve students in Mesa Public Schools, Mesa Community College and Arizona State University Polytechnic. The intent is to engage students with biotechnology early by letting them conduct research and publish their findings, work typically reserved for graduate students and professors. Instead of shuffling students through mundane science labs and mind-numbing lectures, teachers and professors in Mesa hope to churn out well-trained graduates who are ready to enter Arizona’s expanding biotech workforce.

Solid growth in the state’s bioscience industry is boosting the demand for skilled lab technicians and researchers, placing the burden on high school and college educators to update science curriculums to meet Arizona’s needs. With nearly $900,000 in funding over three years from the National Science Foundation, the research project in Mesa is designed to stretch students intellectually rather than force them through stale lab work. “We actually want these students to think like researchers,” said Lewis Obermiller, director of MCC’s biotechnology program and principal investigator on the project. “If there’s a problem, then they can solve it. They’re not just like robots that are following a recipe.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]