National Science Foundation Awards Prestigious Grant to SCF

SCF Partners with Manatee and Sarasota Schools


Flash or other media object.

(Bradenton, Fla., April 8, 2011) — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) President Dr. Lars A. Hafner, in partnership with Dr. Tim McGonegal, Manatee County School District superintendent, and Lori White, Sarasota County School District superintendent, announced a prestigious $187,084 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) Program to fund the Biotechnology Alliance for Suncoast Biology Educators (BASBE) pilot project.

An innovative program, developed and conducted by SCF faculty, BASBE integrates high school teacher training with the use of sophisticated biotechnology tools into high school classrooms, increasing the number of students who are prepared for and interested in biotechnology and other 21st century careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The program will be implemented in high school classrooms by February 2012. Early adopters in both school districts have already started introducing the labs to their students.

“Earning this prestigious grant results from a true collaboration between educators at SCF and the local school districts. This partnership connects a seamless sequence of science education from our schools to SCF to universities and to industry and institutes such as Roskamp, Mote Marine and Jackson Labs,” said SCF President Dr. Lars A. Hafner.

Manatee County School District Superintendent Dr. Tim McGonegal said, “Teachers and students benefit from the pipeline of science education that comes as a result of this collaboration, which is a great value for taxpayers.”

Sarasota County School District Superintendent Lori White said, “This is an opportunity for our teachers to access tools to raise the level of science education in our region and encourage students to advance to pursue a college degree so that they can help meet the demand for careers that are critical to our region’s workforce.”

SCF faculty members will conduct training for high school biology teachers and provide them with a portable “Lab in a Box” that includes sophisticated tools and supplies that will be loaned to participating teachers on a rotating basis for classroom activities.

The faculty-initiated program was developed by SCF life sciences faculty members (Jane Pfeilsticker, principal investigator (PI); Dr. Matthew Keirle, Co-PI; and Dr. Andrew Swanson, Co-PI) in conjunction with curriculum specialists Susan Puchalla, Co-PI, Sarasota County Schools; and Judith Griffin, Co-PI, Manatee County Schools.

The joint announcement was made at an SCF biology lab where Pfeilsticker and Keirle demonstrated two “Labs in a Box”— “Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Analysis” and “P Glow Transformation”— used to conduct experiments such as DNA fingerprinting for crime scene or paternity tests or for production of synthetic human insulin for diabetes treatment.

Two high school teachers from Manatee and Sarasota schools who have introduced the labs to their students this spring also explained how they modified the experiments for their classrooms.

“When I told students we were going to do DNA fingerprinting, they couldn’t stop asking me about it. The experiments helped explain to them that science isn’t something that you read in a book or watch on TV; it’s real. What I especially appreciated was the support of SCF faculty to help teach the students how to use the expensive equipment,” said Jennifer O’Connor, Bayshore High School teacher.

“When I learned about the opportunity to bring these tools to my biology and anatomy and physiology classrooms, I was excited to be able to show students the relevance of science in the everyday world and introduce them to potential jobs in the future. Using the expensive equipment to solve a mock crime made them feel like professional crime scene investigators. When you give students these tools to learn high level biotechnology skills, they rise to the expectations,” said Ernie Daigle, Booker High School teacher.

Lab experiments are useful learning techniques applicable to many fields of science including food safety, ecology, genetics, forensics, agriculture, evolutionary biology, biotechnology and medicine. The BASBE project also will include collaboration with university faculty and technicians and representatives from regional biotechnology companies and other area science professionals.

Joining the group was Mark Pritchett, vice president of community investment for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which is a lead player in the effort to bring Jackson Labs to the region.

“At Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, we invest in the future by encouraging students to pursue STEM fields and preparing them for emerging and fast-growing biotechnological careers offered by companies such as Jackson Labs. “

Pritchett praised the collaborators of BASBE for success in securing the NSF grant that provides students first-hand experience using innovative tools during hands-on biotechnology laboratory activities.

As an outgrowth of this project and responding to the interests and needs of the local community, Hafner also announced that a new Associate in Science in Biotechnology degree program will be offered by SCF beginning this fall.

NSF grant demonstration 
SCF Professor Jane Pfeilsticker demonstrates “Lab in a Box” experiments,
inviting SCF President Dr. Lars A. Hafner, Lori White, Sarasota County School District
superintendent, and Dr. Tim McGonegal, Manatee County
School District superintendent, to participate.

Page Edit