May 11 was an important milestone for the 2024 class of BioBuilder’s High School Apprenticeship Challenge (HSAC). Having completed eight weeks of hands-on training, they are now looking forward to landing a paid summer internship in the life sciences. Imagine the excitement of these high school juniors and seniors!

The Apprenticeship Challenge

BioBuilder designed the HSAC program to be an on-ramp to life science careers for students from populations who are traditionally under-represented in STEM. The program consists of eight weeks of after-school online learning and Saturday hands-on lab work. This learning and doing approach helps the apprentices build their technical knowledge, learn key laboratory techniques, and strengthen their professional skills. Ultimately, the training the apprentices receive prepares them for microcredentials testing and summer internships.

Since the first Apprenticeship class in 2016, the program has graduated 134 students from 36 different high schools, resulting in 86 summer internship placements. This year’s class adds to that success!

Two Cohorts in Spring 2024

For the first time since 2017, BioBuilder’s Apprenticeship Challenge ran simultaneously  in two locations this spring: Boston and Worcester. Students began on March 16th with 30 students from 22 high schools in the Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, areas. The program used BioBuilder’s new curriculum, BioTechBuilder, which is designed to connect students with skills-based training that leads to credentialing and direct entry into the bioeconomy workforce following high school graduation. Perfect for the Apprenticeship Challenge students!


The weekly schedule had two parts: after-school online meetings on Thursdays and hands-on learning in the laboratory on Saturdays. The Thursday online sessions included learning about biology laboratory concepts and techniques, as well as professional skills and opportunities.

BioBuilder’s Dr. Natalie Kuldell and Dr. Hiroko Kaczmarek ran the Thursday online sessions and conducted the science training portions of the online meetings. They also brought in science professionals such as members of Young Women in Biotech who presented real examples of careers of women in biotech, and human resources professional Eric Gaffen from Visterra who discussed what he looks for in resumes and LinkedIn profiles of job applicants.

Visterra logo

On Saturdays, the Worcester cohort met at Clark University for hands-on laboratory work and skill-building. The 13 Worcester students were led by BioBuilder’s Kelly Waters, SashaKay Clarke, Kayla Friscia, and Racquel Kim Sherwood from Avantor. Support from Clark University, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), and the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiative (MBI) helped make the Worcester class an enormous success!

The success in Worcester was met with tremendous excitement. You can read all about it in this article in the Worcester Business Journal (linked here). As the article highlighted, the Worcester version of the program “couldn’t have gotten it off the ground without the really wonderful openness to trying new things” in the growing bioeconomy of Central Massachusetts.

The Boston cohort met on Saturdays at the Learning Lab @ Ginkgo in Boston for the same hands-on lab learning. The 17 Boston students were led by BioBuilder’s Kate Bacon Schneider, Vivek Bajaj, Mark Cherepashensky, and Nancy Otaluka (a former Apprentice herself!). We appreciate the James B. Boskey Memorial Foundation for their support of the Boston apprentices!

And they’re off!

The program wrapped up on May 11th with the students testing for credentials from the Bioscience Core Skills Institute (BCSI). We’re happy to report that 82% earned at least one credential this year. Congratulations!

But wait! The impact of the Apprenticeship on the students didn’t end on May 11. As of May 27, [# of students] have obtained summer jobs in the life sciences! [# of students] will be doing research in Boston University laboratories, others will be XXXXX, and more. We are so happy for and proud of our 2024 Apprenticeship students!

Gratitude to our Supporters

Boskey logo
Ginkgo Bioworks
Clark University
BU STEM Pathways

It is with great joy that we congratulate Kevin Fuentes on his graduation from Tufts University!

Kevin Graduation Tufts

Kevin excelled in the BioBuilder Apprenticeship Challenge in 2019, where he fell in love with the sciences. He took that love to Tufts where he studied chemical engineering and biotechnology (definitely not a slacker). BioBuilder’s Dr. Natalie Kuldell attended Kevin’s graduation ceremony, and she nearly burst with pride!

Here’s how Kevin announced this monumental moment in his young life:

“I am thrilled to share some exciting news with you all. Yesterday, I graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University with a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering, along with a minor in Biotechnology. As a first-generation college graduate, the culmination of the past four years has been the source of so much joy for me and my family.

I am proud to share that I completed a Senior Honors Thesis studying the functional relationship between murine pancreatic beta and alpha cell lines, which earned me the distinction of Highest Honors, reflecting the highest quality of academic research.

I am also thrilled to announce that I have accepted an offer with Sunflower Therapeutics as a Yeast Fermentation Research Associate! I am excited to join their team and contribute to their innovative work in the field.”

The next exciting chapter in Kevin’s life is now beginning, and we look forward to cheering him on all the way!