The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded JCC nearly $900,000 over the next three years to support biotechnology training for high school teachers and JCC students 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,” said Dr. Crisman, “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.”
“Our new grant was submitted to help area high schools get the training and equipment to teach the modern concepts of DNA technology in the context of research projects as well,” she added.
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 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.”
Graduates of JCC’s biotechnology degree program, which was launched in 2008, seamlessly transfer to four-year institutions, many with aspirations to enter medical or graduate school. Some also seek immediate employment in a regional biotechnology enterprise.
JCC has transfer agreements with biotechnology programs at the University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cobleskill, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Agreements with other institutions for biology and biochemistry programs have also been created to smooth the transfer process for JCC graduates.
Details about JCC’s biotechnology degree or HURI SURI program can be obtained by calling either Dr. Crisman at 716.338.1373 or Dr. Lehning at 716. 338.1314.