A class of biology students at Schenectady County Community College last week conducted standard experiments on spinach extract, measuring what wavelengths are transmitted and what are absorbed.
But they had new digs for the old experiment. At the start of this semester, the college opened the door to its new sixth floor biotechnology suite. Outfitted with nearly $200,000 in new equipment, the space includes two lab classes and a third lab devoted to research – as well as a microscope room and faculty office.
“This is so much better,” biology student Stephanie Cain, 19, said. She meant better than schools other science rooms.
“I was excited they changed it around,” Veronica Smith, 19, said. “I didn’t even know there was a sixth floor.”
The classroom, part of the roughly $1.2 million renovation, still carries its new-lab smell. The open-space tables are coupled with comfortable, rolling chairs. Lab equipment, beakers and flasks and test tubes, is neatly lined up on carts at the back of the room. A massive television screen hangs from a wall, waiting for detailed presentations.
Professor Keylon Cheeseman roamed the classroom, helping students at their tables or working with them on the spectrometers. He said the layout and space in the new lab classes makes it easier for him to float between students groups and work with students directly on their experimental techniques.
After passing through the arched-shaped sitting area between the elevators and lab space, Cheeseman led the way to a small microscope room.
“It’s more than an upgrade,” Cheeseman said as he showed off new microscopes and other instrumentation. “Students in community college don’t usually interact with these kinds of microscopes.”
The new labs will be home to general biology and molecular biology, but a pair of new biotechnology programs development of the renovated space. The first program, funded by a SUNY grant aimed at expanding programs in areas of need, is an associate’s of science in biotechnology. The college is working on developing articulation agreements, so those students can transfer to four-year college and potentially purse medical or other graduate degrees.
The second program is an associate’s of applied science for biological technicians, which would train students to move directly into the workforce as lab or research technicians capable of handling biological specimens. SCCC officials said there is high demand for training biological technicians capable of working on research, testing and countless applications of biotechnology – a growing field in the Capital Region.
“There is an increasing need for biotechnologists in the area because it’s such a growing field in the Capital Region,” said Andrew Vines, SCCC dean of math, science, technology and health. “There are a number of companies literally waiting and sitting for those students to finish and get jobs as technicians.”
Before the renovations, which started last May and concluded in January, the sixth floor was mainly used for storage – a waste of a large space with an interest perch above much of the school.
“The sixth floor was definitely an underutilized space and a really attractive space,” said Penny Haynes, vice president of academic affairs.