News 2022: Preparing high school students for the workforce
Preparing high school students for the workforce

Eight New Bedford High School students have been selected for the 2022-23 Mass Life Science Center High School Apprenticeship Challenge taking place this summer at the College of Engineering.

Tracie Ferreira, chairperson and associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering, in the lab with a student (Photographer: Karl Dominey)

UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) have formed the Mass Life Science Center High School Apprenticeship Challenge, a partnership that offers internships to New Bedford High School students. The full-time, paid internship provides an opportunity for students to focus on gaining experience in numerous fields of bioengineering and biotechnology to help inform their career path.

Eight New Bedford High School (NBHS) students are currently engaged in the summer program, which takes place from June through August. The collaboration between UMass Dartmouth and the MLSC exposes the interns to biotech applications that are both Med-tech related, and bioengineering related. “Students are gaining a wide range of research experience with molecular biology, mammalian cell culture, medical laboratory science assays, biomaterials, and drug delivery,” says Dr. Tracie Ferreira, chairperson and associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering. The goal of MLSC is to recruit future biotech hires in Massachusetts due to the great demand for people to fill positions in rapidly growing pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

“The program is a great way to strengthen the partnership with MLSC and NBHS and designed to promote the STEM workforce within the community,” Ferreira says. “I also 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.”

Ferreira is the lead in a team of instructors mentoring the students. The team includes Dr. Laura Hanzly, a bioengineering lecturer at UMass Dartmouth, and Dr. Frank Scarano, chair of the MLSC department who has recruited Carmen Pierce and Nathan Rubien to join him in working with the students.

She says the confidence the 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.”

Now in its fourth year, the program has been successful in establishing a strong community partnership between the two organizations, preparing students for the STEM workforce, and supporting student recruitment efforts at UMass Dartmouth. An intern who participated in the internship program last summer has graduated from NBHS and has chosen to enroll in UMass Dartmouth’s bioengineering program this coming fall. Additionally, one of the interns in this year’s program is a recent graduate of NBHS and is an incoming freshman to bioengineering. Six of the current interns will be completing their high school degree next summer and may consider UMass Dartmouth’s College of Engineering as their college of choice. “It’s exciting to meet these amazing students and share with them the variety of careers that “biotech” encompasses,” says Ferreira.