Biotechnology Summer Institute Helps Students Practice New Skills
BOWIE, MD – Area college and high school students are using their knowledge of science and technology in hands-on research experiments at the Biotechnology Summer Institute at Bowie State University.
"It brings everything together that we've done over these last three years and puts it into practice," said Tamara Quill, of College Park, Md., a rising senior at Bowie State University, as she worked with a fellow student to analyze a DNA sample in a state-of-the-art laboratory. "Being a biology major, a lot of times you just take in so much information, but you really don't know the practical side of it. This actually gives you an insight into the practical side."
The Biotechnology Summer Institute is designed to provide interactive research experiences to undergraduate and high school students interested in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students from Bowie State University, as well as other area colleges and high schools – including Morgan State University, University of Maryland College Park, Anne Arundel Community College, and Largo High School – have participated in the program since June 4 and have spent hours in lectures and lab classes, learning such skills as forensic fingerprinting and DNA extraction. Later this month, area high school teachers will have the opportunity to learn how to educate youth in the biotechnology industry, as part of the institute.
"The goals of the Biotechnology Summer Institute are to promote the interest of students in biotechnology as an alternative career path, provide research experience for students to succeed in postgraduate education, and train personnel to serve in the burgeoning biotechnology industry in Maryland and the nation," said Dr. George Ude, associate professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at Bowie State University, who is coordinating the institute. The institute also impacts high school students by providing teachers additional skills in biotechnology to increase their capacity to prepare students to succeed in college, Dr. Ude said.
Quill has enjoyed her experience so far and said it has given her a wider understanding of what careers are available within the biology field. "You could just read about it, but to get that hands-on experience, you can't beat that," she said.
For Kany Dieye, a 2012 Bowie State University graduate from Bowie, Md., the institute has also broadened her perspective of what careers are possible for her. While she has always had an interest in how biology and technology work together, the institute has allowed her to experience how these disciplines can be applied in real-world contexts.
Last week, for example, one laboratory exercise focused on DNA profiling and its application in investigating criminal evidence and in solving medical dilemmas, such as in paternity testing.
"I love doing research, and that's what we're doing with the experiments in knowing how to do all the processes and procedures when it comes to biology and the health field. We get to run experiments from the beginning to the result – you're pretty much doing all the steps as a student," said Dieye, who plans to pursue a master's degree in bioinformatics. "It will help me with what I want to do in the future in the health field."
The institute runs until June 15 for undergraduate and high school students and from June 18-29 for high school teachers. Along with Dr. Ude, Dr. Gary Coleman, Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture; Dr. Ganesh Sriram, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; and Dr. Jianhua Zhu, Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture – all from the University of Maryland – are also instructors for the institute.