All photos were obtained and used with permission from the Laney College Biomanufacturing Program.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown presented biotech education programs with a new and almost insurmountable challenge.
How do education programs that pride themselves on teaching hands-on skills adapt to an online or mostly online environment?
We’ve been writing about this problem and discussing it in Zoom chats since March. Several months into the pandemic, with the end nowhere in sight, it’s time to review some of the creative strategies that have emerged.
In this article, we'll focus on Laney College in Oakland, CA.
Back in February, when I interviewed Laney faculty member, Doug Bruce, things were going well. Laney's Biomanufacturing program had invented a creative way to recruit students and find work-based learning opportunities at the same time by starting an apprenticeship course in synthetic biology. Laney's industry partners like Ron Shigeta from IndieBio, a San Francisco-based biotech incubator, were helping make connections between Laney students and incubator companies. Enrollment was increasing and the future looked bright.
Then came the pandemic.
Like all programs, Laney has had challenges with the transition to online but as usual, they have found a way to make it work and try some new creative experiments at the same time.
But the most creative strategy Laney is testing has been to partner with The Odin (a DIYbio company) to equip students with kits so they can do synthetic biology at home. In the Fall 2020 semester, Laney students are doing labs at home with CRISPR/Cas-9, bioluminescent bacteria, biosensors, and more.
You can follow Laney's journey on social media - links from the Laney College program page take you to Laney updates at Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.