KUEC Biotechnology Educator Creates Ecosystem of Science Education and Industry Partnerships
April 6, 2021
Since the JCERT-supported biotechnology undergraduate program started in 2016, leaders at the KU Edwards Campus have built strong relationships with students, educators and employers.
Since the JCERT-supported biotechnology undergraduate program started in 2016, leaders at the KU Edwards Campus have built strong relationships with students, educators and employers. Jack Treml is the assistant director of the biotechnology program at the campus. He was earning his Ph.D. in immunology when he first considered entering education.
“I began tutoring, and that got me interested in teaching as a profession,” Treml said. “An opportunity arose at the KU Edwards Campus to design the biotechnology program and also serve as an instructor. It was exciting because it put together all my interests into one.”
Growing interest in biotech education
Since its inception five years ago, the program has grown more than 300%, expanding the number of students it serves under the leadership of Treml and Randall Logan, Ph.D., biotechnology program director and professor of practice.
“To continue the program’s growth, we are constantly revising the curriculum to ensure it focuses on the most important and relevant content for students and their future careers. One way we do this is through significant outreach to local employers,” Treml said.
Seamless transitions from graduation to the workforce are a top priority for the program. To achieve this, the curriculum prioritizes education experiences that progressively build skills and knowledge that align with the needs of local industry.
Partnering with KC-area organizations to set up students for success
“In the beginning, we talked with local industry leaders to identify what jobs were available so we could tailor the program to teach not only general biotechnology, but also other specific topics that best prepare students for their future careers,” Treml said. “We continue to have those discussions to ensure we’re arming students with the best education to meet employers’ needs.”
Today, nearly 100% of students obtain internships prior to graduation, either in an industry setting or academic research lab.
“Internships serve as an extended job interview for our students,” Treml said. “We lean heavily into our relationships with industry leaders to find opportunities for students to have hands-on experience while in our program. Often, those internships turn into full-time employment.”
Cultivating interest in biotechnology at an early age
Another important outreach element of the biotechnology program is partnering with Kansas City-area high schools on events such as Biotech Day, during which high school students are matched with biotechnology undergraduate seniors to learn about their research projects. Students can become research apprentices and assist with elements of the undergraduate students’ senior capstone projects – challenging them to apply their technical and research skills gained throughout their studies. Treml says these outreach initiatives build an “ecosystem of science” that encourages a new generation of scientists.
“By creating interest in science among middle school or high school students, we can increase the chances they remain in the area, become KU Edwards Campus students and eventually join a Kansas City employer,” he said.
Logan says that, in addition to establishing successful area partnerships, Treml’s teaching is equally responsible for producing so many successful students.
“Jack brings a wealth of academic and industry experience to the program, and he integrates this into the biotech curriculum,” Logan said. “Jack ensures students graduate with relevant skills, knowledge and experiences that will make them highly successful. This leads our graduates to be incredibly well positioned for graduate school or entry-level careers.”
By generating student interest early on and fostering that interest throughout the undergraduate experience, Treml says the biotechnology program produces graduates who enter the workforce seamlessly.
“In looking back at the past five years, I’m most proud of the graduates we’ve produced who work for companies where I know the CEO or the Chief Scientific Officer,” Treml said. “Months later, after a student has graduated and gone to that company, those industry leaders report back how seamlessly those graduates entered the workforce. That is extremely satisfying.”