COVENTRY — With the help of a grant from the Amgen Foundation, high school students will continue to get a hands-on experience in the ever growing field of biotechnology.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) was awarded the $94,000 grant to offer, for the sixth year, the Amgen-Bruce Wallace Biotechnology Lab Program at high schools throughout the state.
More than 5,000 students and 100 teachers in Rhode Island participate in the program, including Coventry High School.
Julie Pankowicz, a science teacher at Coventry High School, explained that in 2009 the biotechnology class at the high school was dwindling, with a total of six students enrolled.
She said that once she began teaching the semester-long course, she rewrote the curriculum and joined the Amgen program, where they trained her to use the kit at the biotechnology manufacturing laboratory at the URI Providence campus.
She said she also uses the equipment to teach forensics, biology and physical science.
She explained that last year her forensic science students used the instruments provided to learn how to do DNA fingerprinting.
The Amgen lab program gives science teachers and students interested in biotechnology, the opportunity to use $20,000 worth of professional, research equipment in the classroom.
The type of equipment given to the students, mirrors what is used in the biotechnology industry, including, electrophoresis equipment for DNA separation, centrifuges, micropipettes, consumables for growing bacteria and an incubator.
“I’d never be able to support this curriculum without these materials,” she said. “They’re using materials I didn’t get to use until I was in college. And my students love it. The opportunities it has opened up for them are unimaginable. They’re exposed to careers and jobs that biotechnology education can bring you.”
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