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Head Start for Tomorrow’s Scientists

Workforce shortages in Western New York are being addressed by a UB program that fosters an interest in science careers among area high school students

Jobs in the biomedical sciences are going unfilled in Western New York due to a lack of qualified applicants.

To address this problem, UB medical school professors have developed an innovative grant-funded program aimed at getting high school students interested in careers in science. The professors are teaching basic gene-annotation techniques to area high school science teachers, who then teach the techniques to their students as a way of introducing them to the field of bioinformatics.

High schools in six counties in Western New York are participating in the UB program, the largest of its kind in the country. Once such high school is Westfield High School in rural Chautauqua County. Administrators there are so enthused with the success of the program at their school—led by science teacher Lon Knappenberger—that they agreed to fund the purchase of 20 iPads for the students to use in their exercises.

As a result of the UB program, Knappenberger has developed two new “hands-on” biotechnology sections for his students that have “zero lecture material.” The courses are so popular that he has had to double their capacity.