A member of the Rhode Island Army National Guard and a high school student don the face masks worn on search and extraction missions involving biological contaminants or other hazardous materials.
Approximately 100 students from eight local high schools attended the first Bioscience Career Awareness Expo at RIC on Dec. 16, organized by the Tech Collective and hosted by the Rhode Island STEAM Center at RIC.
Students were greeted by RIC President Frank D. Sánchez who encouraged them to continue to gain real-world experiences while in high school as well as in college.
“To be competitive in the global workforce,” he said, “you have to have hands-on learning experiences.” He added that “exposure to bioscience careers will help guide you into high-skilled, high-wage jobs and ultimately provide a trained workforce for the innovative companies that drive our state’s economy.”
According to Tech Collective, “Rhode Island’s bioscience industry contributes to the life sciences on a national and global stage. The industry is diverse and innovative, employing 4,602 bioscience professionals, with a total employment impact of an additional 11,847 workers. The specialized industry is categorized by highly skilled professionals, above average wages and great social impact. While the biosciences are a small sector comparatively to the state and the New England region, it is one of Rhode Island’s highest-growth-potential industries.”
Expo workshops were facilitated by 22 industry professionals and RIC faculty, covering careers in bioengineering, bioinformatics, biomanufacturing, biotechnology, forensic biology, forensic science, microbiology and neuroscience.
Students experimented with bloodstain pattern analysis, DNA extraction, DNA comparisons and tests, determining the identity of bacterium, learning the key components of vaccines, learning how medical devices are developed and working with hazardous substances, among other bio-related topics.
The Rhode Island Army National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force held a workshop on how their team conducts rescues and protects themselves from contaminants through the use of biotechnology.
According to Staff Sgt. Brian Wheeler, exposure to chemical/biological hazards comes with the job. Wheeler showed students how to use a radiation and chemical detector, an air quality monitor and a thermal imager. Students also tried on the team’s hazardous materials training suit. Full gear consists of suit, boots, mask and three sets of gloves. By the end of the workshop, two students expressed interest in pursuing a career in this field.
“The Bioscience Career Awareness Expo introduced students to working professionals and provided opportunities to explore new possibilities,” said Rhode Island STEAM Center Director Carol Giuriceo. “The STEAM Center was excited to be a part of this event. It removed STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics – from the formal classroom and connected it to real-life experiences.”
JoAnn Johnson, director of Youth and Education Programs at Tech Collective, noted that this is “a critical time when students – especially juniors and seniors – are considering which colleges and pathways to pursue. The expo gave them the opportunity to be in a college setting and raised their awareness about different types of careers from experts in the fields.”
This event was funded through a Real Jobs Rhode Island grant and was sponsored by BARD.