$110,000 grant kicks Biotech education into high gear


Senior Ellen Pereira experimenting during a lab in her science class. Thanks to the $110,000 grant awarded to Gloucester schools, more hands on Biotech opportunities will be available for students.

KATELYN MOORE, Staff Writer, Editor

Do you prefer lab benches to desks and experiments to homework? The Massachusetts Life Science Center awarded Gloucester Public Schools with a grant just shy of $110,000 for state-of-the-art Biotechnology equipment and textbooks.

New as of this year, Biotechnology is a class that is student-driven and experiment based. Through trial and error, students learn to apply the use of biological principles and technology for industrial and medical purposes.

“It’s a path for student to at least be exposed to an area of tremendous job opportunities and use industry tools,” said Biotechnology teacher Eric Leigh, who spent many hours putting together the 31 page sales quote for the grant.

According to Leigh, the grant will provide Gloucester High School students with equipment, training, as well as potential careers in Biotechnology.

“It will transform room 2407 into a Biotech laboratory which will include, instead of desks, Biotech lab stations to work in that will have all different Biotech equipment,” said Leigh, “from micropipettes to balances and gel boxes.”

Biotechnology teacher David Enos, Chemistry teacher Carol Cafasso, and Gloucester Education Foundation representative Christina Raimo partnered with Leigh to acquire the grant. Five local companies supplied their support behind the grant including New England Biolabs, Gorton’s, Cell Signaling, Applied Materials, as well as Salem State University and Endicott College.

According to Enos, the new equipment has already been ordered and should be arriving within the next few weeks.

“Eastern Massachusetts is a Biotech hub,” said Leigh. “It’s an exciting time in Gloucester for Biotechnology because not only is there the Biotech Academy, but they also have the Gloucester Genomics Institute.”

By instigating the Biotechnology class at Gloucester High, students now have the opportunity to continue these studies in college or find a path different from that of a traditional 4 year post-secondary education. Currently, the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy provides high school graduates with hands-on education and training in the Biotech field as well as prepares them for a career in a field at the cutting-edge of science and technology.

Attendance at the Biotech Academy will include a 9-month, full time course to prepare students for entry-level careers as lab technicians. Students who take the Biotechnology class at Gloucester High will be even more prepared for this path.

“The biotechnology process we foresee is one that is student driven: where they prepare the reagents and chemicals,” said Leigh, “to perform the experiment while learning the theory.”