Inside labs at Madison Area Technical College (MATC), students have the future of medicine at their fingertips. Participants in the college’s two-semester stem cell technologies certificate program are gaining hands-on expertise working with stem cells. Not only are they learning how to grow and analyze these cells, but they are also discovering how to modify them to create new cell types and tissue.
“Our students are part of a small group that is really pushing the envelope in regenerative medicine, and hopefully that will create more opportunities for their own career paths,” says biotechnology instructor Tom Higgins, director of the stem cell technologies education initiative at MATC.
The college is one of six schools nationwide that train future stem cell researchers – and the only one with access to human embryonic cells and an advanced cell culture education suite on campus. The college, which launched the program in 2007, has since produced more than 50 graduates – the majority of whom now work in the field – while also providing training institutes and workshops for educators, CEOs and industry professionals wishing to expand their knowledge of this emerging science. Access to institutes like the UW-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center make the college a leader at creating curriculum adapted to new discoveries in the field. Dr. Mary Ellen Kraus, program director, says industry advisers work closely with faculty to develop programs that will give students the experience they need to compete for jobs.
“We want to make sure we are developing curriculum in line with how the biotech industry in Madison is moving and educating workers who can be placed in a variety of settings, but also meet the demand for the growing amount of production in this area,” she says.