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J.F. Webb students experience biotech innovation at VGCC

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Vance-Granville Community College’s Franklin Campus recently welcomed students from Oxford’s J.F. Webb High School for a hands-on biotechnology demonstration.

The two dozen students who traveled to Louisburg and explored the biotech lab became the first high school group to utilize some of the College’s latest equipment. Used for nucleic acid sequencing, the new lab equipment was funded by the U.S. Economic Development Association’s 2022 Build Back Better Regional Challenge award.

Dr. Andrew Pais, instructor for Bioprocess/Biotechnology, led the day’s in-depth DNA sequencing.

“In a matter of five hours, students experienced the entire process of identifying unknown samples from DNA, starting with the operation of lab equipment needed to process samples and ending with a computer workshop on how to convert physical DNA into a readable sequence,” Pais explained. “I’ve done plenty of science outreach in my academic career but never at this depth and scope of content covered.”

Students also had the opportunity to learn about biotech industry careers firsthand. During a lunchtime session, Stephanie Luther of Thermo Fisher Scientific highlighted some of the field’s many career opportunities. VGCC prepares students for such careers through programs ranging from about two months to two years, depending upon the level of credential desired.

Exploring a future in biotech

“There’s never been a more exciting time for students to be involved in biotechnology training programs at VGCC,” observed Stewart Lyon, Bioprocess/Biotechnology program head. “We are so fortunate to have great industry partners like Thermo Fisher Scientific who guide and support our biotech programs. Their involvement is testament to the amazing career opportunities that exist within biotechnology-related industries.”

The College welcomes other schools to plan field trips to the lab and expose students to biotech activities and careers. School leaders interested in planning a visit should contact lyons@vgcc.edu or 252-738-3632.

VGCC instructor for Bioprocess/Biotechnology guides students during a lab exercise