UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) have partnered to offer internships to New Bedford High School students. The MLSC is an economic development and investment agency with a mission of supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts. “One is its most impactful programs are the grants provided to middle and high schools to support STEM programs to help develop the workforce in Massachusetts,” says Dr. Tracie Ferreira, chair and associate professor of Bioengineering at UMass Dartmouth. Ferreira works closely with Ryan Mudawar, vice president of Education and Workforce Programs, to facilitate the summer internship positions offered at UMass Dartmouth.
A grant provided to the New Bedford High School provides funds to purchase equipment and resources for a yearly Biotech workshop that students can participate in during the school year. These students are then eligible for a paid summer internship. Ferreira has successfully placed many high school students in internships at the University. This summer all of the funded interns worked in the bioengineering lab with Ferreira along with her PhD student Merin Don Bosco. Recently, Mudawar along with Ken Turner, president and CEO, Joseph Sullivan, vice president of Marketing, Communications and Community Relations of the MLSC visited the interns on the UMassD campus.
During their visit, they met with Dr. Shakhnoza Kayumova, associate professor of STEM Education and Teacher Development at UMass Dartmouth. Kayumova’s STEM education team provides guidance to interns who assist with summer programs in local elementary schools. The MLSC team also had an opportunity to hear about the interns who have learned about mammalian cell culture, recombinant DNA technology, and drug release and biomaterial work. “Two years ago when New Bedford High reached out to me and Shakhnoza, we realized that it was critical we take the students in so we made it happen,” Ferreira says.
Some of the high school student interns will matriculate as first-year students at UMass Dartmouth next year. Ferreira says she is excited to continue the partnership with MLSC and hopes to expand internship positions to numerous STEM groups across campus in the future. It is a step forward for individuals of underrepresented populations who may not otherwise have the opportunity for these types of internships and may not realize that pursuing a college degree is a possibility.
Ferreira also says it is a way to promote the STEM workforce within the community. “I feel it is critical that UMass Dartmouth is a resource for the New Bedford High School students in this program because we are accessible but often unknown to the inner city students,” she says. “The confidence students gain by completing an internship is invaluable. While our interns may not end up attending UMass Dartmouth, a major goal of this partnership is to encourage them to continue their studies, which will ultimately improve the economic status of our region.”