Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vol State Growing Research with a Student Pipeline

The numbers are stunning. There will be a need for one million more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals than the United States will produce in the next few years. There has been a 17 percent increase in job growth for STEM fields. That’s according to a report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The question is- how do we produce more science professionals? Volunteer State Community College is teaming up with area high schools to grow a science research pipeline for students. Lebanon High School students gathered recently at Vol State to show off their laboratory skills. The partnership between the college and high school has big goals.

“The idea is to give students the ability to walk into a laboratory and know what they are doing,” said Math and Science Dean Phil Clifford. “That’s going to put them head and shoulders above other students in school.”

“These students will start their college career with a huge leg up,” said Lebanon High School teacher Melissa Bunch. “They’re doing molecular biology in my lab right now.”

Lebanon High School is now offering dual credit courses in key research areas. The classes are taught at the college level and provide both high school and college credit. Lebanon is also leading the way as the first high school in the state to have biotechnology program. “The pathway from high school to community college to university is a big selling point,” Bunch said.

That pipeline starts with science research and lab work in high school and continues it with undergraduate research at Vol State.  “We’re trying to grow our undergraduate research program by finding the right students,” said Assistant Professor of Biology Joe Dolan. “If we can reach into the high schools and find students, it will help us identify them for our undergraduate research at Vol State.”

The Vol State research then provides students a direct path to university research. “We are partnering with several local universities that are interested in accepting our students,” said Clifford.

“I’m hoping to pursue bio-chemistry or chemical engineering,” said Lebanon High School student Hunter Fugate. “I want to be at a lab bench wherever I go.”

“I love the hands-on part,” said student Melissa Crespo. “The career I want to go into is forensic science. There’s a lot of lab work in that. This will give me a real advantage.”

The Vol State and Lebanon High School partnership also reaches out to the business community with a nine week internship at a biotech company. “All of this gives students exposure to lab research, so they can make wise career choices down the road,” Clifford added.

For more information on science education at Vol State visit: www.volstate.edu/scienceresearch

This is a link to the 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 

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