HCC receives $672,696 NSF Grant

(August 14, 2009) - Officials at Hagerstown Community College announced today that the college has been awarded a $672,696 grant from the National Science Foundation. The funds will be used to accelerate the development of a biotechnology educational pathway in Washington County that begins in the high schools and leads to a career in biotechnology or biomanufacturing in the regional workforce. The development of this pathway is well underway with over fifty students in varying stages of their education on the HCC campus.     

“This is the first time in the history of the college that we have received funding from the National Science Foundation,” said Dr. Melanie Ulrich, assistant professor of biotechnology. “This impressive grant acknowledges the significant work we have already done in the field of biotechnology and further supports our initiatives to be a leader in providing education and workforce development in this area.”

Using the College and Career Transitions Initiative model, HCC has created a biotechnology pathway framework that provides an articulated sequence of rigorous academic and career courses, beginning in ninth grade and leading to an associate’s degree, industry recognized certificate and/or a baccalaureate degree and beyond.  Biotechnology career positions span a range of educational levels from an associate’s degree to the graduate degree level.  The pathway has multiple entry points for both traditional students and older students making a career transition.   

As part of this, HCC is developing InnovaBio-MD, an internship program modeled after the InnovaBio program at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through this program, three students soon will begin biotech research projects for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID ) at Fort Detrick. Their work will take place in the InnovaBio-MD laboratory housed in HCC’s Technical Innovation Center, under the direction of a research scientist, Dr. Ricky Ulrich.  

The grant, which began August 1, will be distributed over a three-year period. It includes funding for laboratory equipment at Hagerstown Community College and high school science labs in the county, as well as additional staff to be involved with administering the project objectives.

“Washington County Public Schools are very happy to be able to partner with HCC in their wonderful biotechnology initiatives funded through the National Science Foundation and BRAC grants,” said Sandy Graff, WCPS supervisor of secondary science. “Teachers and students have participated in biotech institutes this summer and are excited about being able to continue this rigorous training in future years.”

Momentum in HCC’s biotechnology program has been building. Last December, the program was selected as one of 18 schools in the country to participate in a biotech mentoring program with faculty and staff at Salt Lake Community College, as a mentor college, and Miami-Dade College as a fellow mentee college. Through this initiative, HCC has been working to enhance the internship experiences available to its biotechnology students. To date, six internships have been completed and the addition of on-campus internships to the biotechnology pathway has become a reality.

Also in December, HCC was notified that it would receive $113,052 in the form of a grant from the Base Realignment and Closure Higher Education Fund. These funds have been used to increase the number of students enrolled in the biotech program and enhance the professional development opportunities available to them. This includes a recently held summer biotechnology institute for 15 high school students who earned seven college credits and 13 county high school teachers who participated in a two-week biotechnology workshop. Several HCC biotech students also participated in Fort Detrick internships during the summer.