It wasn’t a normal Saturday. You know, like sleeping in and then meeting your best friend for a game of H-O-R-S-E before going to the mall. No, for a couple of local high school students, Saturday, April 19th meant a different kind of fun. And that fun was in a science lab at Shoreline Community College.
High school students from as far away as Montana came to Shoreline Community College to compete in the Sanofi-Aventis Northwest Regional BioGENEius Challenge, the world’s largest biotechnology competition. The event, held annually for high school students who are doing outstanding research in biotechnology, is held across the country. The NW region (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington) competition was held at Shoreline CC.
Frazier Mork of Shorewood High School, Phillip Wu of Eastlake High School and Maria Brown of Helena High School competed in the event at Shoreline.
Mork’s project studied the mechanism of how cells store essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. He tested yeast cells that had lost the ability to produce specific amino acids, therefore had to import them from the environment. His results demonstrated that cells would adsorb and store as much of some nutrients as the environment provided while at the same time limiting the uptake of other nutrients. This is useful both for nutrition and for anti-viral dosage information.
Brown worked with a virus that has the potential to contribute tools to treat or cure the bacterial form of tuberculosis. The virus attaches itself to a host bacterium and disrupts the vitality of the bacterium by injecting its DNA into the host.
Wu looked at how a colony of cells would respond after a protein that was vital to their growth was stripped away and replaced with a foreign, yet similar, protein. After allowing the cells to grow for a couple of weeks with the replaced protein, Wu found that a small percentage of the cells lived and reproduced more colonies.
Biotechnology instructor, Guy Hamilton says, “The experimental work done by these students was of very high quality and tremendous stepping stone for them to start their educational careers in Biotechnology.
Shoreline Community College was asked to host the competition for a number of reasons. The college offers a biotechnology lab specialist program in which students are trained to help scientists in the burgeoning biotechnology industry. It is the largest program of this type in the region. Shoreline CC is the site for the NW BIO-LINK Regional Center to advance biotechnology training in the six states. Additionally, the college was awarded a $200,000 workforce grant to promote biotechnology in high schools and middle schools and a $300,000 Amgen grant (along with Bellevue CC) to target low-income high schools to train instructors and provide equipment.
“The Puget Sound region supports a strong and thriving bioscience industry,” says Berta Lloyd, dean of professional-technical programs at Shoreline CC. Hamilton says that our graduates are working at essentially every major Biotech company in the region, UW, Fred Hutch and Amgen.
Brown and Mork won the competition at Shoreline CC. They will compete in the sanofi-aventis International BioGENEius Challenge in San Diego in June. The first place winner of the international competition will receive a $7,500 cash award, with awards also going to second and third place winners.
To find out about Shoreline’s Biotechnology Program, please visit the web site located at: http://www.shoreline.edu/biotech/.