Bio 2008 Update: Biotechnology Institute Reception

On Monday night, I attended the Biotechnology Institute’s reception and banquet, honoring top science teachers and the high school student finalists in the Sanofi-Aventis International BioGENEius challenge. San Diego’s own Jay Vavra, of High Tech High in Point Loma, won the Genzyme-Invitrogen Biotech Educator Award, being judged as the top biotechnology educator. It is truly amazing what these biotechnology teachers and students are doing these days. Jay and his students are involved in a project sponsored by Invitrogen and San Diego Zoo’s CRES developing methods to barcode African bushmeat, and they are also traveling to Africa to demonstrate the techniques. Teachers are now combining biochemistry, physics, chemistry, and forensics into biotechnology education, creating a truly interdisciplinary and attractive way for our future scientists to learn. The projects from the BioGENEius challenge finalists can be viewed at Upper Level, Ballroom 20 Lobby from 8:30-5:00 today, Wednesday June 18th.

At the banquet, I also met Lisa McDonald from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). She told me about JCVI’s DISCOVER GENOMICS! mobile laboratory, which is a fully functional laboratory on a bus, used to teach kids about the techniques used in biotechnology today. The bus currently serves the metro DC area, and there are plans underway to support another bus that would serve San Diego when the JCVI UCSD facilities are opened. JCVI is committed to teaching young people about science, and the bus is quite impressive.

Overall, it was a very interesting night. I’ll admit that I had gone to network, and didn’t know much about the Biotechnology Institute, but came away with a better appreciation of biotechnology education in the US. With the current cuts in education, notably in California, we need to remember the importance of educating these future scientists who will face ever-increasing challenges in healing, fueling, and feeding the world.

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