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Technology Driven

03/14/2012

Dr. Ann Billetz, chair of the MCLA biology department, continues to develop programs that prepare students for cutting edge careers in the life sciences.

"You have to keep up to date," Billetz said. "Technology drives the discipline forward."

Her recent efforts include spearheading a tissue culture workshop for biotechnology students in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Stem Cell Center. Billetz also developed a new allied health concentration.

The program, which Billetz developed with biology professor Dr. Anne Goodwin, will launch this fall.

Although MCLA already had a pre-professional concentration that prepares students to pursue advanced degrees in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, the allied health concentration was necessary to prepare students who want to become physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, or nutritionists.

"Courses in allied health cover the information these students need to know, and help fill the pipeline for these growing careers," Billetz explained. "If you go to a doctor's office, you are far more likely to see a PA than you are an MD."

Billetz continued, "UMass has an accelerated nursing track that provides nursing courses for students with bachelor's degrees. These courses prepare them to transition into master's programs in nursing."

In addition, Billetz is collaborating with Dr. Mark Cohen of the computer science department to develop a bioinformatics track to support students in the College's biotechnology program. "It's where we need to go next," Billetz explained.

"It's basically biology with computers, using technology to analyze, sort, and sift through data. If you're running 2,000 samples, you have to have a way to manage all of that data."

Billetz and Cohen hope the bioinformatics program will launch next spring. "I'll teach the biology and Mark will develop the technology courses. We also will team teach a capstone project," Billetz said.

Additionally, Billetz leads a collaboration with the Sage Colleges of New York, that prepares MCLA graduates to pursue master's degrees in occupational therapy or nutrition, or doctorates in physical therapy.