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UM BioPark Helps Launch New Careers in BioTech

As graduates of the Biotechnical Institute of Maryland (BTI) marched to ceremonial music, they were taking a remarkable step into a career in Maryland's burgeoning biotech industry. One of them, Lucie Jones, had been unemployed for two years. Now she feels like the sky's the limit.

"I do," says Jones. "I feel like the possibilities are endless now."



Jones was among two groups of BTI students sponsored under a $1.4 million federal workforce grant administered by the University of Maryland BioPark and other partners. She and 46 other students completed BTI's 12-week Lab Associates Program. Working with partner companies at the BioPark the non-profit provides tuition-free training and job placement services for entry-level biotechnicians, like Deric Richardson.

"What can I say? My enthusiasm hasn't changed. Anyone that's been here, they know that I'm always like this," Richardson told graduating students. "I'm always smiling. Always happy because I am proud of what I've become and I'm looking forward to the future and I just want everyone to know that anything I can do to help you I will."

Richardson is one of BTI's many success stories. He graduated from the program in 2010 and, with BTI's help, landed a job right away as a lab technician with Paragon Bioservices, a tenant in the BioPark. He says personal hardship guided him toward his career goal of improving cancer treatment. "Going through the program I was actually going with my mother to get treated for the cancer and unfortunately she passed, but she was able to attend the graduation ceremony, which I'll never forget," he says.

Like all of the students, Richardson spent 100 hours in a hands-on internship. Graduates also receive 6 credit hours from Baltimore City Community College. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, JD, told graduates and their families they are an important part of one of the city's biggest growth industries.

"I'm very encouraged to see that we are so diligently training our workers for these in-demand jobs in Maryland's life sciences industries," she says. "Through 2013 Maryland has invested in more than 60 companies, creating more than 250 biotechnology jobs, leveraging $96 million in additional investment, so I think you've made a good choice by investing in your future and your career prospects right here in Baltimore."

Maryland Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Leonard J. Howie III, JD, MBA, urged graduates to keep learning. "In the scientific field things move and change so rapidly that the jobs that are here today, they're not going to be the jobs that are there in 2020," he says. "They're going to change.They're going to be something different, and you need to learn as much as you can to position yourselves so that you can take advantage of whatever opportunities do come to light."

Despite a difficult economy, Ted Olsen, CEO of Pathsensors, another BioPark tenant, was upbeat about the graduates' career opportunities. "I know the economy has its challenges today," he says, but for biotech trained people the state of Maryland has a huge pool of companies that are available for you to go work in and to go use your skill sets in."

In addition to being the graduation's industry speaker, Pathsensors' Olsen is Lucie Jones' employer. Jones says the company's positive environment was a big factor in her success. "They're awesome in the fact that they took time with what I needed, what I didn't know. They did not have a problem teaching me, made it very easy for me to understand, gave me techniques to use in the classroom as well as in the field that I still carry with me today," she says.

Jones got a rare chance to show just how much she learned this summer. In her role as a lab consultant with Pathsensors, she helped show Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, JD, critical pieces of lab technology during a visit to the BioPark.

"It was overwhelmingly incredible. I didn't think I'd be able to do what I did. I really didn't. But I can."

Posting Date: 12/13/2013
Contact Name: Alex Likowski
Contact Phone: 410-706-3801
Contact Email: alikowski@umaryland.edu