Henry Ford Community College Biotechnology profs win College’s Innovation of the Year Award
Jolie Stepaniak and Paul Root – two professors in the Henry Ford Community College Science Department – won the Innovation of the Year Award presented by the college April 13.
The National League for Innovation in the Community College (http://www.league.org/index.cfm) created the Innovation of the Year Award. HFCC is a member of the National League. The award is designed to recognize college faculty and staff members who have designed and implemented a significant innovation. Dr. Gail Mee, president of HFCC, introduced this program to the College five years ago as a method of encouraging dynamic and innovative thinking among College faculty.
Stepaniak and Root’s project, “Teaching Biotechnology Through Real-World Projects: Organism Identification Through DNA Analysis,” was one of four nominees at HFCC. A committee of 11 HFCC faculty and staff members served as the judging panel. Students in their biotechnology course, BIO 261: Nucleic Acids, had to identify an unknown organism through its DNA alone.
Each student received a swab of cells from a human being, a chicken or a cow. At that point, they had to design and execute an experiment to determine the organism from which the cells came. The students implemented the polymerase chain reaction – the same process that forensic DNA labs use – to find the answer. This experiment not only tested the experimental design and laboratory skills of students, but also provided them with a fun and exciting real-world challenge for their final project.
“They were given separate samples – they didn’t know what they were until the end – and had to work individually and draw their own conclusions,” said Stepaniak.
“This is a project you’d usually see at a four-year institution, not a second-year course at a community college,” explained Root. “This project offers our students a wonderful opportunity to experience the types of activities and expectations they would find in an academic research laboratory or a commercial biotechnology facility. To complete this project, students must successfully execute a number of high level technical laboratory skills,” he added.
Winning innovations are inscribed on a multi-year plaque that hangs in the Roseneau Conference Room, located in the Andrew A. Mazzara Administrative Services and Conference Center on the main campus. Photos of the winning innovators, along with a description of their innovation, are featured on the League web-site for a year.
“The Biotechnology Program is a very cutting-edge program at the College. These two instructors (Stepaniak and Root) have provided a new method of learning and also give students practical training in order to set them apart in the industry. Their creative teaching methods helped keep their students engaged. It’s an extraordinary creative program overall and unique among any community college in Michigan,” said Lisa Jones-Harris, vice president for Student Affairs, who served as a co-chair of the Innovation of the Year Award committee.
Source: Henry Ford Community College