Middlesex County College Opens New Biotechnology Lab

EDISON — A new, state-of-the-art biotechnology lab was recently opened at Middlesex County College. The biotechnology laboratory is a teaching lab which includes a preparation room, a “clean room” for tissue culture work and a dedicated lab space for specialized equipment. The lab will allow students to become proficient in laboratory techniques used in the biosciences industry.

Representatives from Middlesex County College and area businesses recently gathered to celebrate the achievement and to cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the lab.

“This is a great day for the college,” said Karen Hays, vice president for academic and student affairs. “It is the culmination of a perfect plan: the faculty in the department conceived and designed the new biotechnology program, developed the curriculum, completed transfer agreements with four-year colleges and universities providing seamless transfer for our graduates, and then designed the lab. Most importantly, it is a great day for our biotechnology students, who will benefit greatly from their experience in the facility.”

Hays also thanked the college president, Joann La Perla-Morales, for her support during the creation of the program and the lab.

Resources for the equipment and supplies came from funds provided through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006, awarded by the New Jersey Department of Education, as well as a grant from BIO-1 WIRED, a consortium of regional industry and educational institutions that received money from the United States Department of Labor.

Uma Narayanan, director of the biotechnology program, said the lab is similar to what the students will find when they are working in the field.

“It provides hands-on experience for our students,” Narayanan said. “This lab will allow us to teach students how to use the equipment, most of which is state of the art. It is a wonderful addition to our program, but it would not have happened except for support from the president and vice president.”

The lab is wireless and handicapped accessible, and has numerous safety features. Instruments include high speed centrifuges; a multi-mode microplate reader, which can measure absorbance, fluorescence and luminescence; a high pressure liquid chromatographic system, which is widely used in teaching and research laboratories and in industries such as forensics, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; gel electrophoresis equipment, a gel documentation system; blotting apparatus for separating DNA and proteins; and much more.

Classes that will make use of the lab include General Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Intro to Biomolecules and Molecular Biology.

Narayanan also said she plans to use the lab for certificate programs, a summer institute for high school students, and workshops for high school science teachers and industry members.

Currently, 58 students are in the biotechnology program. Two of them, Alex Dionne and Josh Rhoden, spoke at the ribbon cutting.

Dionne thanked Bristol-Myers Squibb and Advanced Technologies Regenerative Medicine for generously providing funding for scholarships. Frederick J. Egenolf, director of community affairs for Bristol-Myers Squibb, was at the ribbon-cutting and later toured the lab.

Dionne also highlighted the work of Narayanan in developing the lab.

“We would like to thank supporting faculty members from both the biology and chemistry departments who have extended assistance to us, whether it is through advising, teaching new courses we need to help us prepare for four-year institutions, or in providing a general sense of support for all of our individual small moments of success,” Dionne said.

Rhoden agreed. “Thank you to the dean and associate dean, vice president and president of the college who have continued to support this program from its initial formation, through all of the moments when it needed external support,” he said. “I can assure you that you will be proud to hear from the students of this program, and of their accomplishments in the years to come.”

Cutting the ribbon, from left: Trace Gerow, chairperson of the Biology Department; College President Joann La Perla-Morales; Karen Hays, vice president for academic and student affairs; and Uma Narayanan, director of the Biotechnology Program. (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County College)

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