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Upper School Offers Exciting and Challenging New Biotechnology Class to Seniors

Friday, December 4, 2015

Have you ever eaten yogurt or bread or soy sauce, taken insulin or antibiotics or therapeutic drugs that target cancer, done laundry with an enzyme-enhanced detergent, worn contact lenses, written on paper, or eaten chips and salsa at a favorite Mexican restaurant? If so, you have almost certainty benefited from the products of biotechnology.

Now a new course at Heathwood is allowing Upper School students to explore this rapidly growing field first-hand.

This fall semester, the Upper School Science Department and Science Faculty member Jason Chiu have offered a new elective Biotechnology course to seniors. The new course uses Biotechnology, a textbook published by Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., an international leader in life science research and clinical diagnostics. 

Approximately 30 students, almost 15 per semester, or about 70% of our seniors, have enrolled in the new lab-based Biotechnology course. So, what is Biotechnology and what draws our students to this new course?

Most simply put, biotechnology is the merging of technology and biology. The products of biotechnology are utilized in most people’s lives every day. The biotechnology industry is in rapid growth after its beginnings in the late 1970s, and the number of career opportunities in the biotechnology sector is increasing annually. Biotechnology is used by many industries, including biological research, health care, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Students taking Biotechnology at Heathwood will learn about the biotechnology industry and its many career opportunities, and they will acquire new laboratory skills such as pipetting, DNA extraction and column chromatography, learn microbiology and cell culturing techniques, and understand DNA analyses such as gel electrophoresis and forensic DNA fingerprinting. In addition, students will have the opportunity to learn about bacteria transformation and plasmid purification and their applications in genetic engineering, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and its use in DNA replication or DNA amplification, the structure and analysis of proteins, and biotechnology application in immunology such as the Enzyme-Linked Immunoassay (ELISA) and Western blotting techniques.

By offering a Biotechnology course at Heathwood, it is our expectation that many of our students will enter college with a strong foundation for future biotechnology and life science studies and careers. According to SC Bio, the South Carolina Life Science Industry trade organization (http://www.scbio.org/) and a  2010 study by the Battelle Institute,  biotechnology and other life science institutions directly and indirectly impacted 46,032 jobs in South Carolina. By 2014, more than 572 biotechnology and life science companies and institutions directly employed 13,520 people in South Carolina, with an average annual wage of $53,275. Biotechnology represents an emerging and very rapidly growing sector of South Carolina’s innovation economy.

If you are interested in learning more about Heathwood’s Biotechnology course or wish to offer your support, please contact the course instructor, Jason Chiu, atchiuj@heathwood.org or Science Dept. Chair Jim Morris atmorrisj@heathwood.org.