My colleagues on the InnovATEBIO grant love big ideas. The Envisioning the Next Bioscience Workforce Summit was the biggest by far.
The first day featured talks on new technologies in biotech and new areas where biotech students are starting to be employed along with inspirational stories about community college graduates. Four community college graduates who are working in industry talked about their work and their career paths. Speakers from OSTP and BioMADE talked about workforce development, the bioeconomy, and industrial biotechnology. We heard about the use of artificial intelligence in antibody engineering, the growing field of regenerative medicine, and new opportunities for students to work in companies creating lab-grown meat.
We were also treated to community college students and alumni presenting posters from their research projects.
On day two, teams from twenty states rolled up their sleeves and got to work identifying their states’ greatest challenges in workforce development and brainstorming on plans to address these. We also heard from speakers who discussed the importance of diversity, challenges for students with disabilities, options for credentialing, and apprenticeships.
Here are some excerpts faculty and students comments (you can find more of their thoughts here):
Tracy Niday (biotech faculty, Southeast Community College, Nebraska):
Thank you to NSF and InnovATEBIO for hosting the first biosummit on envisioning the future workforce in biosciences. Misty Wehling and I got to have great discussions with Nebraska industry leaders Bluestem Biosciences, Inc., Neogen Corporation and Bio Nebraska, our state trade organization. Sydney, a graduate of our dual credit AgBio program at Southeast Community College got to present her Senior capstone research on dog sociability!
Nirmal Singh (Dept. of Biotechnology, Genomics, and Biomanufacturing, Massachusetts Bay Community College):
Thanks to InnovATEBIO for bringing together Biotech leaders and supporters from community colleges, industry partners, and government leaders, highlighting the vital role of Community Colleges across the nation in developing a diverse & equitable workforce that is critical for ever-expanding bioeconomy, addressing the challenges faced by high school and community college educators, including student awareness, recruitment, community college branding, and other critical factors.
This summit provided unique opportunities to listen to and connect with leaders from various sectors, including Academia, the Biotech/Biomanufacturing Industry, and Government, including representatives from the White House!
Joanna Sanchez (student, Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois)
As a first-generation Latinx student, I understand the impact that mentoring opportunities can have on students' lives. I am grateful to my mentor, Associate Professor Dr. Sheela Vemu from Waubonsee Community College, for her inspiring and impactful advocacy for student success. Without her continuous support, I would not have been able to embark on the journey that led me to present my undergraduate research on "Mapped out immunogenic regions in SARS-CoV2 variants to understand vaccine design" at the Envision the Next Bioscience Workforce Summit hosted by the InnovATEBIO Community at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
This experience has been inspiring and provided me with invaluable insights into the latest biotechnology trends and the impact of BioManufacturing on creating a sustainable economy.
My sincere gratitude goes to the InnovATEBIO Community and the National Science Foundation for affording me the opportunity to participate in this summit. I deeply appreciate the knowledge gained from my involvement in undergraduate research and the summit, and I am committed to being an advocate for education for underrepresented students. I hope to use my experiences to become a leader in this field and contribute to student success.
Miko Mallari (Research Technician UC Berkeley, graduate of City College of San Francisco, Antibody Engineers Hackathon participant)
While wrapping up my time with the City College of San Francisco, I got involved with the InnovATEBIO community, and it started a collaboration that I keep up today. I volunteered with a group of educators nationwide to develop undergraduate research-based lesson plans that taught students how to utilize a database like the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB.org) to learn topics in immunology, vaccine design, protein engineering, and bioinformatics.
Some key takeaways from this summit:
- The focus on developing the Bioeconomy, especially highlighting the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing
- The importance of creating purpose-driven work to improve retention in the workforce for early-career individuals
- How biotechnology is disrupting healthcare, agriculture, and material science industries. Including topics surrounding ethics, the speed of growth of these industries, and the number of jobs they will create.
I have been involved with the ATE community since 2021, and it’s been such an impactful experience seeing how these educators are shaping the future of our Bioeconomy. It was the first time I was meeting many of my colleagues in person and it was such a welcoming experience. Thank you to everyone that made this happen.