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January 4, 2021

Biotechnology is more than you think

Have you ever wondered how a vaccine is created? What sorts of research, trials and testing are involved? JCCC’s new biotechnology course can answer those questions for you — biotechnology graduates are some of the brains behind the vaccines!

Heather Seitz, Professor of Biotechnology, is passionate about this important field.

“The field of biotechnology brings us so many amazing innovations in medicine, agriculture and animal health,” she says. “It’s amazing learning about all the products that have been developed like recombinant insulin for diabetics, human growth hormone used to treat lots of growth disorders, crops that are drought-resistant and new vaccine technologies.”

A Culture of Success

The field of biotechnology continues to grow, and Seitz wants to spread the word to students considering a career in medicine.

“I see tons of students who want to cure diseases and we need people working in the labs and helping to test and develop new strategies,” she says. “This work is really what cures diseases but it’s not something people often say when asked what they want to be when they grow up. I would argue that they just don’t know the name of this important career.”

The field of biotechnology is one that students can enter after earning an associate degree. Common career options include manufacturing technician, cell culture technician, instrument calibration technician, clinical research associate, clinical research administrator and medical laboratory assistant. 

Location, Location, Location

“Biotechnology is a vast field and is playing a vital role in the healthcare industry, especially the pharmaceutical and agricultural industry.” - Fareeha L., biotechnology graduate

JCCC is the perfect location to study, since Kansas City is home to the largest collection of animal health biotechnology companies in the world, the Animal Health Corridor. In total, there are over 300 biotech companies in the Kansas City metro area. 

Should students decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, they won’t have to look far. JCCC’s courses transfer seamlessly to the University of Kansas Edwards Campus biotechnology program. A bachelor’s degree allows students to work for companies that manufacture vaccines, develop new diagnostic tests, create personalized medicines, do research and develop work for new drugs, and test and screen new products. 

Randy Logan, Director of KU’s biotechnology program, tells students that each class they take before their transfer is an important one.

“The classes you take in your freshman and sophomore year lay the foundation for your downstream coursework,” he said. “You will build on that foundation and expand in complex and exciting ways. Focus on mastering the content you are given and never treat the classes as a check-the-box exercise.”

Treating Man’s Best Friend

One JCCC alum who completed the biotechnology program at KU Edwards found herself working in the field of cancer treatment. Fareeha Lodhi is a laboratory manufacturing associate at ELIAS Animal Health in Kansas City. She studies immunotherapy treatment that creates cancer vaccines for canine patients using their autologous cancer tissue specimens. 

“Biotechnology is a vast field and is playing a vital role in the healthcare industry especially the pharmaceutical and agricultural industry,” she said. “I was always fascinated by the lab environment, cell cultures and medicinal industry. To work in this field every day is a dream.”

Introducing the Program

Students who are interested in the field of biotechnology are encouraged to enroll in BIOL 161 Introduction to Biotechnology. This course allows students to develop biotechnology skills while researching and developing an actual biotech product. 

“Students will learn how to create a product and then they will be able to develop, test and package the product for use by other courses on campus,” says Seitz. “It’s an exciting opportunity for an aspiring biotechnologist.” 

According to Lodhi, JCCC equipped her with all of the tools for success.

“JCCC taught me many laboratory technical skills like pipetting, streaking plates, using microscopes, scales and preparing buffers, reagents and gels for gel electrophoresis experiments,” she said. “I also learned to work in a lab with a thorough understanding of lab safety requirements according to OSHA’s compliance. Every lab requires its workers to know these skills. It’s valuable knowledge.”

With new discoveries occurring often, biotechnology is the career of the future.

“A degree in biotechnology provides a launching pad for careers in diverse sectors of science,” said KU Edwards’ Logan. “Students are ready to solve society's problems using their creativity, knowledge and sharp intellect.”

Start Your Journey

Ready to begin an exciting career in biotechnology? View our Biotechnology Transfer Guide (PDF) and map out your education plan today!