SPC biology students learn from Tampa Bay area professionals

Students in SPC's summer 2013 Methods and Applications in Biotechnology class

Students in the summer 2013 Methods and Applications in Biotechnology class

Clearwater Campus biology instructor Michelle Osovitz has taken learning to a new level through partnerships with educators from around the Tampa Bay area. This summer, SPC began offering Methods and Applications in Biotechnology, a senior-level elective course for the baccalaureate biology program. Through the class, students visited labs in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, gaining hands-on experience through workshops.

“Dean Chapin, Linda Gingerich and I wanted to develop a course that we could use to help train our graduates to be workforce ready in the field of biotechnology,” Osovitz said. The goal was to create an environment in the classroom that mirrored the environment in a biology research laboratory through:

  • professional-style lab meetings in place of practical exams
  • journal clubs rather than assignments
  • collaboration with several other labs to use the latest, most relevant technology
SPC students visit USF St. Petersburg to participate in the Group Forensics workshop with Robert Ulrich..
SPC students visit USF St. Petersburg to participate in the Group Forensics workshop with Robert Ulrich in Dr. John Paul's lab.

The partnerships developed between SPC and the following groups provided students with unique learning opportunities throughout the term: 

  • SPC Safety and Environmental Services: On May 14, students participated in a safety training video under the guidance and collaboration of Anna Gillman, Environmental Services Coordinator at SPC.
  • University of South Florida St. Petersburg: On May 30, with the help of Dr. John Paul and Robert Ulrich at USFSP, SPC students learned the use of forensic analysis to investigate the sale and distribution of Florida Grouper.
  • U.S. Geological Survey: On June 4, Dr. Christina Kellogg helped students learn to search national sequence databases and perform DNA sequence comparisons to create phylogenetic trees to classify species relationships based on genomic data in a Bioinformatics Workshop.  
  • University of South Florida Children’s Research Institute: On June 27, Drs. Mike Shamblot, Larry Dishaw and Gary Litman helped students measure gene expression to investigate how bacteria respond to different food sources.  
  • University of South Florida Tampa: On July 9, Dr. Stephen Deban helped students use high-speed photography to investigate mechanics too fast to be seen with the naked eye. Watch the clips – Paper Clip, Egg Cracking and Lighter Flame – on the college’s YouTube channel.
  • Veterans Administration at Bay Pines: On July 13, students toured the VA medical research facility and learned about cell structure under the direction of SPC instructor Dr. Kathy Siegler, who also serves as a Research Chemist for the VA.

In the students’ exit interviews, Osovitz asked how they benefited from the field trips.

“The overwhelming response was that it was their first exposure to a functioning research lab. The experience made research and the job of a research scientist much more tangible than in instructional labs,” she said. “They also appreciated hearing different perspectives on what it is like to achieve a career in biotechnology and academics from the principle investigators to the lab technicians.”

Several students also have been given the opportunity to volunteer, intern or apply to open graduate position in the labs they visited. The Methods and Applications in Biotechnology course will again be offered in spring 2014.

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