April 15, 2016 by asmeltz

FVCC Receives Grant from National Science Foundation to Enhance Biotechnology Education in Montana High Schools

logo_180iphoneFlathead Valley Community College has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance biotechnology curriculum in Northwest Montana high schools. The $424,590 award will support TeaM SCoRE Biotechnology:  Teachers in Montana Strengthening the Continuity of Rural Education in Biotechnology.

Dr. Ruth Wrightsman, FVCC Associate Professor of Biology, is the project’s director and will collaborate with high school life science teachers to implement DNA laboratory activities in freshman and sophomore biology classes. High school students will have the opportunity to engage in innovative laboratory activities, participate in authentic research projects and develop skills needed for success in college science courses.

“By raising awareness of biotechnology career options early in the high school curriculum, we hope to recruit more students into biotechnology and related programs that will prepare them for 21st-century scientific and technical careers,” said Wrightsman.

Biotechnology is a rapidly expanding field that harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help solve some of the world’s most urgent problems, including disease, famine and energy shortages.

The three-year TeaM SCoRE Biotechnology project will train and equip 24 life science teachers from high schools throughout Northwest Montana to deliver biotechnology curriculum in their classrooms via DNA barcoding experiments. Teachers and students will have access to lab equipment purchased with NSF grant funds. At the end of the project, any novel DNA sequences discovered as a result of the experiments will be submitted to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Subway.

The grant was awarded to FVCC from NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program and builds upon a prior NSF grant to FVCC that allowed Wrightsman and Dr. Jerry Manning to develop the first biotechnology transfer degree program in Montana. FVCC offers a two-year Associate of Science degree in biotechnology that allows graduates to enroll as a junior in Montana State University’s biotechnology program.

Wrightsman is an experienced educator and researcher who has taught community college classes for more than 30 years in biotechnology, microbiology, cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. She has extensive research experience with more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in immunology and molecular biology using experimental methods.

Manning, a biology instructor at FVCC, will co-teach the teacher workshops with Wrightsman and assist teachers in their high school classrooms to implement the laboratory experiments. Manning is professor emeritus of the University of California-Irvine Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, where he received funding from the National Institutes of Health for his extensive research on parasites. He has more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and expertise in gene isolation, characterization and recombinant DNA methodologies.

For more information about FVCC’s biotechnology program, visit www.fvcc.edu/biotechnology.