Scholastic Collaboration


A group of biology students will have the opportunity to study at the UMass Stem Cell Bank and Registry over the coming spring break, thanks to an exciting new collaboration between MCLA and UMass Medical School.

Beginning next March, UMass will offer a three-day workshop, in which select students who are considering a career in medicine or graduate school will participate.

According to Ann Billetz, chairperson of MCLA's biology department, the students will learn how to do tissue cultures and work with a fluorescence microscope - which is used to study properties of organic or inorganic substances using the phenomena of fluorescence and phosphorescence.

They also will visit UMass Medical School, tour the labs and meet faculty.

Billetz expects the annual workshop will be a "fabulous" experience for those who participate.

"The students will gain a lot of techniques that a lot of people won't have. It gives them a chance to see a working lab," she said.

"It gives them a chance to actually learn how to do stem cell work and any tissue culture in general. It teaches them how to do fluorescent microscopy (see examples on this page) and gives them a chance to see the labs at UMass Medical, to visit with some of the medical students, to talk to the faculty. So, this is a huge plus for our students," she added.

Billetz said that, through the workshop, students will have the opportunity to use equipment accessible to relatively few undergraduates.

"You can't teach them tissue culture at MCLA because they use the type of equipment a medical school would have, not a college. This way, they can learn how to do tissue cultures. They're going to learn how to do fluorescent microscopy. They're actually in a working stem cell bank. It's a really nice experience. The experience of going to a stem cell registry, being part of a working lab and going to the medical school, I think, is probably a better experience than if they just did tissue cultures as part of a bio-techniques class at the college," Billetz said.

In the future, she expects other students may serve a semester-long internship at the Stem Cell Registry or at one of the labs at UMass Medical. While the workshop's first participants were selected by Billetz, she expects students attending the workshop next year will be chosen through an application process.

"They are upper-level students with a good deal of course work under their belts. They obviously are excellent students - students who do well in classes and who are interested in either medical school or graduate school," she said.

While at UMass over their spring break, the students will stay at a nearby hotel. Their stay and their travel expenses will be funded by UMass Medical School.

The workshop was developed after Maria Borowski, training director at the UMass Stem Cell Bank and Registry, came to speak with students in Billetz's freshman seminar class. Each year, Billetz invites a science professional to speak with students about careers available to them in the biology field.