Education

Franklin County students make biotechnology education a priority

Posted January 16, 2012
Updated January 21, 2012

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— North Carolina has long been one of the national leaders in biotechnology jobs, ranking in the top three in the field.

Despite that, there hasn't been a big push to educate students at the high school level. One high school in Franklin County is changing that.

Thanks to the support of a local biotechnology company and the foresight of school system leaders, students at Franklinton High School have been learning since 2006 about the field many of them will end up working in.

The class, introduction to biotechnology, was the first of its kind in the state and allows students to do research and get hands-on experience in a field used to grow food, make medicines and create alternative energy fuel.

Taught by Winn Clayton, the all-in-one class that combines biology, anatomy and chemistry currently allows 18 students to get invaluable experience.

"It's a lot more hands-on work," Clayton said. "We do a lot of lab."

Freshman Matteo Napolitano said the class offers students the opportunity to learn about several different things in one setting.

"We get to deal with bacteria and learn about cells and everything else about the body and how it functions," he said. 

The class was the result of a $25,000 investment by Novozymes, a industrial enzymes company based in Franklinton. The money paid for the equipment the students use and was the first push by the company to become involved with biotechnology education. Biotech Franklin County students get lessons in biotech

Students take field trips to Novozymes to shadow employees and scientists also visit the class often. Students can also continue with biotech courses at Vance-Granville Community College and earn college credit.

"We need good, young, bright students interested in this field to make a difference. To have the work force we're going to need in the future," Novozymes American president Adam Monroe said.

Even in six years, the relationship between Franklinton High School and Novozymes has had an impact. About 30 percent of Franklinton students go on to work in biotech careers. Napolitano may fall into that group.

"At first I wanted to become a cook and do culinary art," he said. "But I got into this class and I fell in love with it and kind of want to go into the medical field now."

Jordan High School in Durham also has a program for biotechnology. 

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  • bombayrunner Jan 16, 2012

    These are good for drawing an interest. I'd acquired a similar skill in the Navy but once I was out it was not worth anything unless I had a BS or better yet an MS or PhD. So I did get a couple BS's but in other things ... unfortunately these fields take full time study I did not have the ability to do.

  • bombayrunner Jan 16, 2012

    the ANTI-ows movement, KILL IT!!!

  • Prep4Life Jan 16, 2012

    exactly the reason why the company I work for had to pay to move me here
    still 1of theOriginalAmericans

    Ahhhh....so it wasn't your charm and award winning personality? Perhaps it was your experience and familiarity with existing processes? Perhaps... it's your leadership skills?

  • Prep4Life Jan 16, 2012

    yadda yadda yadda...

  • vraptor Jan 16, 2012

    You need advanced degrees to work in biotech. A HS degree gets you a janitor job at a biotech. NCSU has great biotech degrees. But the classes are only in their full time programs. No night classes or internet classes.

  • yourmadscientist Jan 16, 2012

    Is the class for l semester for 18 students? Then another 18 students for the second semester. Certainly good experience but hardly qualifies them for anything. This would be no different than taking keyboarding and then they get a job with Microsoft. Taking one class for about 4 months wouldnt do much to get you a first rate job doing anything.superman

    I don't think this is about job preparation. This is about exposure to what the field of biotech. I'm in this business and have been for the past 2 decades when I got out of college. That's what brought me to RTP. This isn't new industry by any means but it's an important one. college-college-college if you want to do any type of research. Otherwise it's a back room mail sorter for the people who do.

  • superman Jan 16, 2012

    Is the class for l semester for 18 students? Then another 18 students for the second semester. Certainly good experience but hardly qualifies them for anything. This would be no different than taking keyboarding and then they get a job with Microsoft. Taking one class for about 4 months wouldnt do much to get you a first rate job doing anything.

  • yourmadscientist Jan 16, 2012

    This company is going a great thing with these kids. Truly a good human interest story. Especially outside of the Raleigh=Capital where a lot of stories never make the news. Teaching these kids invaluable lab skills is a great way to start and get moving. Also lets them know what types of jobs are available. Everybody makes some good points here. Brmyspots I don't think kids coming out of highschool are going to make $44-K a year at this company but they might after about 5 or 6 years. Work hard, think smart, go to college if it's an option.

  • joe-pa hanging with lucifer Jan 16, 2012

    The pictures portraying the kids that are involved in this program tell me all I have to know as to why this group of kids will be successful in life.

  • judithfergerson Jan 16, 2012

    Way to go with this program- we do have some smart kids that want to be productive for the future. I would bet their parents know about their goals and encourage them to achieve those goals.

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