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Biotech consortium OKs RCC program

Sandra Larson | 12/15/2010, 8:26 a.m.
Staff members from Roxbury Community College (RCC) pose with the endorsement awards presented by the Massachusetts Life Science Education Consortium (MLSEC) for RCC’s programs in biotechnology. Pictured (from l to r) are: Lance Hartford, executive director of MassBioEd Foundation; Terrence Gomes, president of RCC; Dr. Brenda Williams Mercomes, vice president of academic affairs at RCC; Dr. Kyrsis Rodriguez, professor of science and interim dean at RCC; Joan Wood, a senior vice president at Genzyme and MLSEC co-chair. Sandra Larson

“I wanted to improve the lives of others, especially those with genetic disorders,” said Bourn, addressing the audience of life science industry representatives, state officials and college administrators and professors. But she had some doubts, wondering about the emotional toll of working with patients who didn’t survive, she said.

And then her path took an unexpected turn.

“Halfway through my chemistry course with Professor [Paul] Patev, he asked if I was interested in a career in biotechnology. And I thought, ‘What’s that?’ We talked about it, and it came down to something very simple that I believe in: improving the lives of others, ethically and scientifically.”

Bourn switched to the biotechnology technician program and is on track to receive her Associate in Science degree in May. Along the way she completed an internship at Quest Diagnostics, and has already landed a permanent job at Genzyme, a company whose products address genetic disorders and other diseases.

After the ceremony, Bourn said she is pleased with her new career and grateful to no longer have to work weekends juggling multiple jobs. Her job title at Genzyme is senior manufacturing technician, and she provides support to bioengineers for bioreactor and cell culture projects. She declined to name her salary, but said the range for people entering her field is $35,000-49,000. She plans to continue her education with tuition assistance from her employer.

Besides Roxbury and Middlesex, MLSEC endorsements went to six other community colleges across the state: Berkshire, Bunker Hill, Mount Wachusett, Northern Essex, Quinsigamond and Springfield Technical.

Closing the endorsement ceremony, MassBio President and CEO Robert Coughlin referred to the career lists on the MassBio website, which serve to remind students and career changers that biotech is not just for scientists, and not just for people with advanced degrees. Current job postings requiring a two-year degree or less include quality control technician, manufacturing technician, animal care specialist and lab assistant.

Coughlin also reiterated the importance of the biotech field, both for the Massachusetts economy and for society. “There isn’t anyone here who doesn’t know someone who’s sick,” he said. “People like Stefanie are working hard to come up with cures that affect everybody. This partnership is creating jobs meaningful to all of us.”

For more information:

MassBio:www.massbio.org

Roxbury Community College: www.rcc.mass.edu

Middlesex Community College: www.middlesex.mass.edu

Bunker Hill Community College:  www.bhcc.mass.edu

Biotechnology Institute: www.biotechinstitute.org