BioNetwork Bus visits BCCC

Published 9:35 pm Friday, August 31, 2007

By Staff
Provides students hands-on experience
Staff Writer
This classroom comes to students.
A mobile classroom — a classroom instructors said will provide vital experience for students looking to enter the biotechnology industry — stopped at Beaufort County Community College on Thursday. Shared by the state’s community colleges, the BioNetwork Mobile Laboratory — also called the BioNetwork Bus — is a stop-and-go, state-of-the-art chemical laboratory on wheels.
Golden LEAF started the program in an effort to retool the state’s work force following the collapse of the tobacco market, according to BioNetwork Bus instructor Scott Hallam.
The mobile lab’s equipment lines both sides of the interior of a bus. The equipment includes microscopes and centrifuges. Since it hit the road in April 2006, the bus has logged at least 15,000 miles driving from the mountains to the coast as it visited the state’s 58 community colleges.
Beaufort County Community College has had a one-and-one agreement with Pitt Community College. Under that agreement, a student studied for one year at each institution and received an associate’s degree in biotechnology. Bringing the mobile lab to Beaufort County is part of a plan to have biotechnology students do all of the work needed to earn their degrees at BCCC. Experience, like that provided by the mobile lab, is as good as a year of study in college, McClanahan said.
Getting people jobs is part of what the mobile lab is all about, Hallam said. But that isn’t the only role the BioNetwork Bus plays, he said. It also provides specialized training for workers already in the biotechnology industry. Companies may arrange to use the mobile lab to offer courses to their workers, just as the community colleges arrange for the mobile lab to visit their students.
Hallam said community colleges in eastern North Carolina have been the first to “jump on the bandwagon” by inviting the mobile lab to supplement their course offerings. The bus will return to Beaufort County at least three times this year, including an appearance Oct. 23-24 to introduce high-school students to careers in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.