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NOVA receives NSF grant for biotechnology program

The National Science Foundation has awarded $190,949 to Northern Virginia Community College to strengthen and enhance the College’s biotechnology program. The grant will support a project titled “Establishing NOVA as a Regional Leader in Biotechnology Education and Training” under the direction of Program Head Johanna Weiss and Assistant Professor Ia Gomez at the Manassas Campus.

“NOVA’s biotech program is designed to produce skilled workers to fill a critical need in the local workforce,” Gomez said. “This grant will give us extra tools to make sure our graduates have the knowledge and training employers want.”

The grant will provide support for improving the biotechnology program in four areas: internal recruiting of NOVA students into the biotechnology program, retention and graduation efforts, placing students into jobs or transfer programs, and assessment and evaluation of student success.

To increase awareness of the program within NOVA, biotechnology exercises will be introduced into general biology courses at several campuses, along with appropriate faculty training.

An external industry advisory board has been established to ensure the curriculum meets employer needs and a survey of potential employers will be conducted to determine educational and skill set requirements for entry-level positions. To improve job placement, a formal internship program will be created and new courses on quality control, bioinformatics, microbiology and bio-manufacturing will be added.

An internal advisory board will be created to help promote the program and enhance student retention. Work will continue on articulation agreements with four-year institutions to provide easy transfer options for students who want to continue their educations.

NOVA offers an associate degree in biotechnology and a career studies certificate for biotechnology lab technicians. To learn more go to http://www.nvcc.edu/manassas/biotech/ or contact Gomez at igomez@nvcc.edu or Weiss at jweiss@nvcc.edu.

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.