Biotech articulation agreement to bolster Berkshire County's STEM workforce


NORTH ADAMS, MA - In response to a growing need within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and Berkshire Community College (BCC) will prepare Berkshire County residents for careers in biotechnology through a new 2 + 2 program.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, official announcement of this collaboration will be made as MCLA President Mary K. Grant and BCC President Paul Raverta sign an articulation agreement at PLACE at TIME. The agreement supports the institutions' efforts to encourage and educate local residents with regard to existing and future STEM field opportunities in Berkshire County.

Biotechnology is an expanding and diverse field that combines life sciences with engineering. According to Monica Joslin, MCLA's dean of academic affairs, the number of companies devoted to biotechnology research and manufacture of products is growing. Industries that apply biotechnology techniques include human therapeutics and diagnostics, veterinary, agricultural, food processing, aquaculture, chemicals, waste management, pharmaceutical, and energy and environmental protection.

 "There will be research opportunities, as well as opportunities in laboratories and in hospitals," Joslin said. "This program will provide the students with a really broad background in laboratory work with a strong emphasis in both biology and chemistry, preparing them to enter the biotechnology workforce immediately upon graduation. They will be very skilled."

At BCC, students will take courses in general biology and general chemistry, as well as a course in lab techniques and biotechnology. At MCLA, students will continue with classes in biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology and a lab course in biotechniques.

BCC's Associate's degree in biotechnology was launched in fall 2009. Students who successfully complete that two-year program may transfer seamlessly to MCLA to complete their four-year, Bachelor's degree in just two more years.

"This is a wonderful addition. We are always looking to enter students in the STEM fields," Joslin said of the 2 + 2 biotechnology program. In addition to the biotechnology concentration, MCLA offers also concentrations in medical technology, cytotechnology and allied health within its biology degree program.

Over the last few years, enrollment in the STEM fields at MCLA has increased by about 20 percent. In addition, in fall 2009 MCLA began  a new major in athletic training, which previously was offered as a concentration within the biology degree program.

For more information, to go majors/biology.