New Biology and Chemistry Labs Part of an Ongoing Effort to Build a STEM Workforce

STEM is the road map to Philadelphia’s economic future and the bedrock for future investment.

With that in mind, Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) has redesigned and upgraded its biology, chemistry and microbiology labs, and added professional-grade equipment.

More than 25 percent of degrees and certificates awarded to CCP’s Class of 2018 were for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

In February, the College held a STEM Open House to showcase improvements to and a complete redesign of multiple laboratories and teaching spaces in the West Building on Main Campus. The renovation for the latest addition, the biology lab, was a $7.2 million upgrade, with $5.9 million of those funds coming from a bond issue.

President Donald Guy Generals hosted a panel discussion with local STEM leaders including: Dr. William Wunner, professor, director of Academic Affairs, and Outreach Education and Technology Training for the Wistar Institute; Dr. John Lee, associate director, CAR-T Discovery and Platform Development, Jannsen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Darryl L'Heureux, American Medical Writers Association, Delaware Valley Chapter; and Adebayo Bello, CCP alumnus; Genetic Counseling assistant at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Mr. Bello, who received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bucknell University, plans to enter medical school this fall.

Talent development, the role of science in the innovation economy and CCP’s role in attracting industry and diversifying the workforce were among the topics addressed. In a 2017 ranking by SmartAsset, Philadelphia’s STEM workforce ranked high in both racial and gender diversity. Women made up about 33 percent of the total STEM workforce while 18 percent of STEM employees were black.

“Community College of Philadelphia provides a strong talent pipeline for regional industries,” Dr. Generals said. “Our mandate is to provide students with career ladders that offer training for entry-level jobs, and future opportunities to grow and advance with cutting-edge programs like the Biomedical Technician Training Program at Wistar Institute."

The Biomedical Technician Training Program and the Biomedical Research Technician (BRT) Apprenticeship were established by The Wistar Institute and Community College of Philadelphia to meet the growing demand for technicians at area health care and research centers. Of the 152 graduates in the technician program thus far, 53 percent are minorities and 72 percent are women, which deepen the diversity of ideas in the industry.

STEM education has evolved, shifting from simply performing experiments to learning why and how they relate to coursework and to the world.

As interactions of learners and teachers have become more intentional, peer-to-peer study has taken on new importance. The new facilities form an educational landscape that supports effective teaching and learning with technology-rich classrooms, student study areas, state-of-the art equipment for DNA analysis, a high-tech mass spectrometer, professionally equipped anatomy, physiology and micro-biology labs, and a spacious open lab where students can confer with instructors and peers after or before class to review coursework and materials. The College’s biology and chemistry labs had not been updated since their installation in 1983-1984.