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Bioscience Technology program sequences right plan for success

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Portland Community College Bioscience Technology program graduate Jeremiah Wallace, 28, has put in 240 internship hours at Oregon Health Science University’s molecular and medical genetics lab. The Beaverton resident is now trained to sequence DNA by genotyping lab mice to determine genetic traits.

“The students come to the lab with relevant experience,” said Mike Liskay who supervises Wallace at the Molecular & Medical Genetics Lab at OHSU. “It’s almost like a technical school.”

Another student Guthrie Pliska, 22, of Southwest Portland calls his internship at Portland State University basic science. He works in the Bartlett lab, researching proteins in single cell organisms called archaea. He says he takes strands of DNA, reads them, makes a copy, and orders it to make a protein.

Both students, along with four others, have been participating in an internship requirement in the resurrected Bioscience Technology associate’s degree program. Based at the Rock Creek Campus (17705 N.W. Springville Road), the program was put on hold by the college six years ago due to the downturn in the economy, but is back thanks to demand by industry and the community. There are 13 full-time students in the program and 29 more that are taking the Bioscience Technician certificate option.

Students start by earning the certificate and have the option to continue on to earn the associate’s degree. Both the certificate and the associate’s degree provide them with a foundation for a career in the bioscience industry.

“The jobs are out there,” said Pliska, who wants to get his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon or Oregon Institute of Technology. “Different labs are scooping up techs (right now).”

Most PCC bioscience technology students don’t work during their two-year study. Before they begin their internships, which require 32 to 40 hours a week, they spend time in the lab at Rock Creek every day. After their internship, current students or new graduates can qualify for jobs in forensics, genetic diagnostics, pharmaceutical work, and academic and corporate research.

Wallace plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology at PSU. Last year he interviewed at Genentech in Hillsboro, but decided to continue his education, a difficult decision for the married father of one.

“Ever since high school, I have wanted to go into the medical field,” Wallace said. “But I have a working class attitude; work was my security blanket. In the end, I had to make the decision to make school a priority.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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