MOBIO Member Highlight
St. Louis Community College
Center for Plant and Life Sciences (CPLS)
Satellite campus at BioResearch and Development Growth (BRDG) Park
CPLS might only occupy a small amount of space in the industry building that is BRDG Park, but it has a big mission! There are numerous activities happening from classes to high school interactions to industry partnerships, all with a modest full-time staff within 10,500 square feet of space. By being centrally located within the 39 North Innovation district, there is always something going on!
The primary focus has always been the Biotechnology program. This program was originally designed with input from industry as to which technical skills are essential for a bench technician. Industry involvement continues in the form of an advisory board, which meets several times per year and provides feedback and recommendations on curriculum and approves any changes to the program. Currently, the largest challenge is building recruitment into the program, as workforce is desperately needed within the St. Louis region, and our students are so well trained they are snatched up, many times before all their program requirements have been completed! St. Louis Community College’s Horticulture program is also supported at CPLS by providing laboratory spaces for a micropropagation course, with the instructor for this class from the Danforth Center, right next door! There is also support for the Life Sciences Laboratory Assistant (LSLA) certificate, which has a growing high school dual credit involvement using the EMBARK pathway. EMBARK enables high school students to take college classes while they are still in high school, with the potential to graduate high school with a diploma and the LSLA certificate.
Outreach to local community school districts is another important piece of the CPLS mission. With a dedicated outreach specialist, science activities can take place at the school during students’ normal class meeting time, or in the form of a workshop on site at CPLS. There are diverse options for these science activities, as well as the length of time required to complete them. Typically, our outreach during the school year is focused on the high school level, but there are always exceptions to every rule! The Parkway SPARK! Bioscience Program holds their meetings every day on site at CPLS throughout the normal school year.
Summer is always an active time on the outreach schedule. Plans are well underway for our weeklong workshops. These lab-based activities include middle school, high school, and teacher trainings that all take place for one week and all are free to participants. While we work with local area schools to provide high school internship opportunities in our laboratory spaces, summer is especially exciting with Rockwood school district Project Interface students. These high school juniors and seniors will spend 6-8 weeks on site performing actual research on several ongoing projects and will present the results of their work at the end of the summer.
Another unusual aspect to our CPLS campus is the BioBench Contract Research portion. Our campus has over two million dollars in high-end, highly technical equipment to support the biotechnology training program. It just makes sense that students should be trained on equipment they will see in an industry laboratory space. By establishing BioBench, this very atypical community college arrangement can allow legal contracts such that local industry and start up companies can use our laboratory spaces and our equipment when not in use for classes. This provides much needed support for companies, and for those with only 1 or 2 people, having access to equipment means they do not have to purchase it themselves when on a very tight budget. This also provides subtle industry interactions with our students, showing them how industry interacts with each other, and demonstrating professional behavior and dress.
The newest activity taking place at CPLS is our customized training program, Biomanufacturing, Research and Technical Training (B.R.a.T.T.). This program involves internal collaboration with our STLCC Workforce Solutions Group and CPLS full-time staff members. This non-credit weeklong 40-hour training was developed with CPLS, ThermoFisher, and BioSTL. Initially, the goal was to provide some basic laboratory skills training and a high-level overview of the entire manufacturing process to existing ThermoFisher employees. This has evolved over the last year to more basic training as part of ThermoFisher’s onboarding of new employees and is scheduled based on the new employee orientation schedule at ThermoFisher. The time is divided between classroom lecture and laboratory activities with plenty of informal interaction promoting questions and solidifying understanding of the detailed material. This interactive course will prepare industry employees with knowledge of methodologies needed to develop and manufacture biological products. Topics include upstream bioprocessing, downstream processing, GMP practices, lab equipment like chromatography columns and bioreactors, and functional roles in the company. B.R.a.T.T. is currently offered about once a month. We are exploring other types of customized training to include a variety of laboratory topics to serve other industry and perhaps some of the start up community as professional development. If you think you might be interested in a discussion around customized training for your company, or if you might be willing to complete a survey around training topics, please just reach out to the Director of CPLS, Elizabeth Boedeker.
For questions related to Center for Plant and Life Sciences activities, please email Elizabeth Boedeker
For more information on the Center for Plant and Life Sciences campus
For more information on the Biotechnology program
For more information on the Horticulture program
For more information on the LSLA certificate