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Rock Canyon biotech goes across the country

RCHS biotech students and staff members visited the University of Pennsylvania on June 3. The group toured the university’s medical school and labs on their trip.

By RCHS intern writer Maddy Merritt; photo courtesy of Shawndra Fordham

In early June, students in the biotechnology (biotech) program at Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) attended the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia, where they attended workshops and learning sessions led by professional speakers from scientific fields. The RCHS students were the only students present at the conference under the age of 21.

Students toured the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania as well as the university’s labs. They learned about new career opportunities in the biotech field and about recent advancements fueling the biotech industry.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Reese Titensor, Castle Pines resident and junior at RCHS, said. “Being able to talk to the individual researchers for advice with our project really meant a lot. It was very generous of them.”

Titensor and her Biotech II research partner, junior Reaganne Oates, have been working throughout the summer on their biotech research project for the upcoming school year. In addition to talking to professional researchers, students attended panels and had the opportunity to approach the microphone and ask questions at the end.

“We had the privilege of getting a tour of UPenn’s research facility,” Zoe Zizzo, a senior at RCHS, said. “The thing that left the greatest impression on me was the vast range of state-of-the-art research being conducted at UPenn. We had the opportunity to tour their labs, hear about what they were doing, and even perform some of the protocols ourselves! There were a ton of people excited to see young kids in science.”

The students and staff also incorporated sightseeing into their trip. “We went on a Segway tour and a ghost tour of Philadelphia and also all had dinner together a few times,” Zizzo said.

The biotech program at RCHS was established five years ago by biotech teacher Shawndra Fordham. The program is designed to introduce students to career opportunities in the science field and teach them about new research and advancements in the scientific world. The RCHS biotech program provides students with hands-on learning experiences, such as in-class labs that the students conduct to prepare them for the real world, and helps them develop communication and writing skills that they can use in any career they choose.

“Biotech not only taught me lab skills that will help further my career in research but also strengthened many vital life skills for me such as advocacy, teamwork, question asking, communication and technical writing,” Zizzo said.

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