Tag: Jon Weidanz
Last Thursday I met with the provost from Cisco College’s local campus, Richard Burdine from the Development Corporation of Abilene, and Jon Weidanz from TTU School of Pharmacy and the biotech firm Receptor Logic to discuss the new biotech certificate program recently approved for Cisco College. Our goal was to see how our individual entities could cooperate to help build a biotech workforce in Abilene sufficient to support the growing biotech industry here. Topics discussed were equipment needs and labspace for the new program, an articulation agreement between Cisco’s biotech certificate and McMurry’s biomedical science program, internship possibilities in town, and a general update on the infrastructure being developed for recruiting additional biotech companies.
So what was the outcome? I promised to take a quick inventory of unusued equipment at McMurry and see if we had some items that might be useful to them. For instance, I know we have a sequencing gel that is no longer needed because of our Li-COR DNA sequencer, and I know we have a biological safety cabinet that is no longer needed downstairs and appears to be unneeded upstairs either. There may be other items here and there we can add in from their list. Secondly, I’m in conversation with our faculty about how the Cisco courses fit with our offerings to develop an articulation agreement that will give Cisco’s certified biotech graduates a head-start on a four-year degree at McMurry. And, we’ve continued to solidify the BIMS program as the premiere program for producing bachelors’ prepared biotech employees.
Another meeting is set for next month – I’ll give a further update then.
This Friday, the faculty of the Biomedical Science Program will meet for a retreat to discuss our first year of operation and plan for the year ahead. Attending will be Tom Benoit, Heidi DiFrancesca, and Gary Wilson from Biology, Paul Pyenta from Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Alicia Wyatt from Computer Science. Larry Sharp is on vacation and will miss the meeting.
In reviewing the first year of operation, many milestones suggest a rich and profitable future for the program. The first year saw over 20 students declare a BIMS major, mostly incoming freshmen interested in health professions or biotech. The new courses were very well populated. Growing publicity from the city fathers, The Development Corporation of Abilene, the TTU School of Pharmacy, and local biotech firm Receptor Logic helped to strengthen our position as the premiere life science/biotech training program in Abilene. Heidi DiFrancesca and Hyunshun Shin from Chemistry & Biochemistry have begun collaborating on a project to develop and test new treatments for breast cancer. And McMurry has seen the value in promoting these endeavors through funding for equipment and supplies to support the research-in-teaching approach used in BIMS.
I’m sure some time will be spent discussing the parallel development of the biotech infrastructure in Abilene, with a variety of support facilities (including the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation Research Accelerator facility) coming on line. Add to this the decision by Abilene Independent School District to start a new engineering/computer science high school this fall and you have converging efforts that point to a bright future. One of the tracks possible at the new high school is biotech engineering, which Dr. Jon Weidanz from TTUHSC-School of Pharmacy and I are promoting.
So what does the future hold? That is the reason for our retreat! I expect that we’ll see growing commitments to link our courses together and use our BIMS lab courses to conduct research. We’ll see BIMS-focused proposals for the lab renovation competition being held on campus later this month. We’ll see plans for research grants and programs to help high school science teachers learn and implement new methods, techniques, and equipment into their courses. We’ll see more articulation agreements with professional schools for pharmacy, physical therapy, and who knows what else! Clearly, BIMS is on the move and possesses the creative firepower to transform the sciences at McMurry. Thoughtful planning and staged implementation are keys to making that happen.
Check back in a few weeks as I give an update on the event!
Week before last I met with Dr. Jon Weidanz to discuss biotech issues in Abilene and ways our BIMS program can contribute to building a biotech workforce in west Texas. These meetings occur with relative frequency, as he and I share a vision for how McMurry BIMS students can become biotech leaders for America’s future.
Here are some things we see in Abilene’s future for biotech:
1. Growth in biotech education. Jon and I are working on ways to build a biotech-capable workforce in Abilene to support biotech growth. McMurry’s Biomedical Science students remain one of the most talked about resources for the future in this regard. The industry is hungry for BS in BIMS-prepared workers to hire at starting salaries of over $50K. Other avenues we hope to see fall into place soon:
- biotech opportunities for students in Abilene schools, particularly in the New Tech High School starting this fall.
- biotech certification programs at Cisco College, with an eye toward articulation with the BIMS program at McMurry.
- presence of a PhD in Pharmaceutical Science degree program through TTU’s School of Pharmacy in Abilene. There is an educational superhighway being developed to help provide skilled workers for biotech with exit ramps after high school, community college certification programs, four-year university degree programs, and graduate programs, all here in Abilene.
2. Growth in biotech opportunities. Jon and I discussed internships for students at Receptor Logic, and the myriad of other opportunities and developments on the horizon:
- growth in the equipment and infrastructure for research in Abilene, due to the Development Corporation of Abilene’s investment in the biotech accelerator facility set to open in December.
- the likelihood of more biotech firms arriving in town within the next year or so to join Receptor Logic in the accelerator and bring additional research and development and production to Abilene.
- formation of the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation to spearhead and coordinate local research efforts and to oversee the accelerator operations.
- ongoing support at McMurry for biotech program development. This summer several additional vital pieces of equipment are being purchased to grow the research capacity for BIMS program faculty and students, and to offer for use by others in the shared endeavor.
These developments confirm what we’ve known for a long time – the BIMS program was one that was needed and whose time had come. Our students will help write the pages of Abilene’s future.