Student Finds Love in the Biotechnology Field

test tubes in a rack

When Shannon Ballard, 23, was taking prerequisites for a healthcare degree at St. Petersburg College, she fell in love. With microbiology. Ballard changed her initial plans for a degree, commitment followed, and she recently finished SPC’s Associate in Science in Biotechnology Laboratory Technology.

“I’ve always had a passion for math, and science brings an element of art to it,” Ballard said. “I Love that science is an ongoing conversation – there’s always room for development, growth, and new, exciting things that could change the world.”

SPC’s Biotechnology Laboratory Technology A.S. Degree teaches hands-on skills that ready graduates to become biological technicians, working in laboratories where they maintain instruments, conduct and observe experiments and record results. In fact, Biotechnology is a fast-growing field, especially in Florida, which is home to more than 1,100 biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies who need qualified technicians.

“The Biotechnology Laboratory Technology degree called to me because it seemed to focus on important skills used in the workforce,” she said. “It felt like a more proactive preparation for the workforce.”

Shannon in a white lab coat

Ballard said she found the program fascinating.

“I was interested walking in the door,” Ballard said. “But every day got more interesting. With such new, innovative technology and techniques to study, it was just a new adventure every day.”

SPC’s program offers technical skills and key duties, but also soft skills like communication and critical thinking.

“This program really equips you with a set of skills that can be applied to many applications, and that helps you feel confident in what you know and your ability to adapt to different work situations,” Ballard said.

Ballard secured an internship at Focus Laboratories as a junior researcher, where she spent the summer applying all that she’d learned by prepping and running tests in an actual laboratory.

“It was a challenge to apply for internships in the heart of COVID,” Ballard said, “but SPC offers great resources to students. I got help with prepping for interviews and getting my resume looking good.”

Her love for the work shone so brightly during her internship that she was offered a position – and a promotion – by the time it was coming to an end. She accepted the offer and is now completing her final prerequisite to pursue a bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the University of Florida.

“This program turned out to be such a great calling for me,” Ballard said. “And this internship was make or break – and I made it. Now I’m a part-time student and a microbiologist – about to get my first promotion.”

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