Arlington Students to Learn about Careers in Biotechnology at the Prince William Campus

Posted: April 26, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Stephanie Hay

The Department of Molecular and Microbiology (MMB) is reaching out to high school students interested in learning more about biotechnology and the biosciences. Seven Arlington juniors and seniors, accompanied by the coordinator of the Arlington Public Schools biotech program and their teacher, visit Discovery Hall at the Prince William Campus for guided tours and faculty presentations on Thursday, April 29.

Susan Senn, a retired high school science teacher who oversees the newly created biotechnology elective taught at the Career Center in Arlington, believes MMB could provide her students an opportunity to understand the importance of pursuing careers in these growing fields. “I felt that a George Mason tour would be perfect for the students to see bioscience and biotechnology in front of them and to say, ‘Hey, I can really study this,'” she says.

Patty Snellings, public relations coordinator for life sciences at the Prince William Campus, planned the group’s trip. “Basically, Susan was looking for ideas and resources she could use to build her program and bring real-world situations and information into the classroom,” she says.

Tom Huff, assistant director of operations for life sciences, is organizing lab tours, guided by faculty members or graduate assistants. “So much of science education is obtained through hands-on laboratory experience. But in modern science, the days of staring though magnifying glasses and lining up test tubes just don’t exist anymore,” he says.

“Our research laboratories have many of the top-of-the-line instruments, and they are being actively used in meaningful research for a wide variety of purposes. By giving the students a tour of the labs, we can show them real work in progress, offer some career path ideas, and show them the science education and research opportunities that are available right here at George Mason.”

Jerry Coughter, the director of life sciences management, will also lead a discussion on careers in biotechnology and biosciences.

“I see these types of tours as a way to highlight our capabilities and perhaps influence some of the best of the local high school students to consider our programs,” Huff says. “As we recruit better students, we can expand our research capabilities and ultimately provide more opportunities.”

Senn knows opportunities exist, too. “These 11th and 12th graders are still naive, but I think George Mason is being such a pioneer in the field, and the students will discover they can study biotechnology here,” she says. “I hope the students walk away from the trip with the realization or the knowledge of how biotechnology is used in the real world.”

Write to at