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July 28, 2014

On July 25, more than 30 teachers, biotech industry leaders and Life Sciences Summer Institute (LSSI) supporters gathered at San Diego Miramar College to hear concluding presentations from the latest class of teachers to complete the LSSI program. The presentations provided an overview of the Amgen Biotech Experience labs and biotech company externships.

The 12-day professional development program guided 17 teachers, representing eight school districts (San Diego Unified, Sweetwater Union High School, Grossmont Union High School, Carlsbad Unified, Murrieta Unified, Hemet Unified and Lake Elsinore Schools), through a set of labs designed to be taken back to the classroom and completed by students. The skills emphasized in each lab are part of a universal toolbox of foundational skills used in biotech laboratories. Upon completion of the program, teachers are offered access to all the tools needed to complete the labs in their classrooms, passing on knowledge that offers students a distinct advantage to find a career in the biotech field.

The group also completed half-day externships at some of San Diego’s biggest biotech companies, including the Salk Institute and the Scripps Research Institute. Here, they honed in on specific skills employers are looking for and learned what it takes for students to gain a competitive edge in the industry. Many teachers mentioned that the hands-on lab experiences and workplace visits gave them a greater sense of confidence regarding their own knowledge of the biotech industry and how to teach students to be successful within it. They also commented on the importance of hearing from employers, who emphasized that a blend of biotech knowledge and commonly neglected soft skills are equally important for students who want to be successful in the field.

When it came to sharing their favorite part of the experience, the teachers noted that meeting with some of San Diego’s biotech giants and getting their hands on state-of-the-art equipment was only a small highlight of the whole program. The collaboration and camaraderie built amongst like-minded teachers truly made the program unforgettable to them. In a field where spending this much time with colleagues instead of in the classroom is truly a luxury, these teachers didn’t waste a minute of networking time and made firm commitments to continue the newfound relationships outside the program.

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