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Chemistry students at IRSC

Chemistry students at IRSC

by Michael Adams, Chair, IRSC Foundation Board of Directors

To compete in the global economy, we need to prepare our students to out-think and out-perform their counterparts around the world. Indian River State College is at the center of a regional effort to boost interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. These “STEM” disciplines are at the root of discoveries that lead to business expansion and new jobs.

IRSC has launched a wide range of initiatives that foster scientific aspiration. This summer, future science teachers engaged in marine research, developing fascinating videos and experiments to bring back to their classrooms and build enthusiasm about science among teens. The program is one of several elements of Florida’s Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE Florida), based at IRSC in partnership with nationally recognized science organizations. High school students at the Clark Advanced Learning Center, a charter high school on the IRSC campus in Stuart, conduct field studies of Florida ecology. This hands-on experience helps them consistently earn top science scores on Florida’s assessment test.

The College’s state-of-the-art science laboratories are utilized by an increasing number of students each semester to develop the skills they need for a career in biotechnology – skills sought by the biomedical research firms moving here. In fact, an IRSC chemistry student Jason Fenwick was one of the first laboratory technicians hired by Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies when the California firm expanded to this area. IRSC graduate Michael Cartwright is working at his dream career as a research technician helping find cures for diseases at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) in Port St. Lucie.

It is vitally important that we pave the way for the “next generation” of scientists and that other students like Jason and Michael have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and expertise they need for a rewarding career.

Now under construction, IRSC’s STEM Center at the St. Lucie West Campus will serve as a feeder program, providing skilled employees for nearby research institutes. With the College experiencing 20% enrollment growth in the sciences, the three-story facility will provide much-needed classroom space and sophisticated teaching laboratories in genetics, chemistry, ecology, molecular science, botany and microbiology. The focus will be on linking math and science concepts to real-world applications.

State funding will help support construction of the 56,000 square-foot facility, but private support is needed to enhance the technology that will provide students with experience in the latest procedures and research methods. The IRSC Foundation’s goal is to raise $1 million in support of technology and laboratory equipment, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to move into research-based technician positions and continue their education at the graduate level.

Nine US metropolitan regions are well-known for their biotechnology focus, because they have created a favorable climate for research and conversion of ideas into products. As our region diversifies its economy and transitions to the “Research Coast,” it is essential that we provide our young people and career-changers with the knowledge and skills they need to become employed and advance with these types of research enterprises. The availability of an educated workforce is a vital component in building that supportive business climate.

We invite you to contact the IRSC Foundation and visit our campuses to see first-hand how IRSC is using education as the springboard for economic development, individual empowerment and the realization of our community’s full potential. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact adecker@irsc.edu

1 Comment

  • Snubz says:

    Compliments to the New Indian River State College for facilitating this wonderful opportunity for STEM education. I’ve found a very good infographic that I’ve found is very effective in introducing students to the concept quickly: http://www.rackspace.com/blog/spotlight-on-stem-education-infographic/ Often, my students don’t understand the context or the value. This graphic has been a good tool for helping me make it “click” in their heads. In these times where many of them are watching their parents and other adults in the community struggle professionally, the numbers around job opportunities really resonate with many of my students who need pragmatic reasons to motivate them in their studies.

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