Increasing Access to STEM Careers

Students who are traditionally under-represented in STEM education include women, students of color, immigrants, and those from low-income families or school districts. BioBuilder's High School Apprenticeship Challenge closes the gap.

Increasing access to STEM careers for traditionally under-represented students and schools

BioBuilder is well-aware of this education gap and is committed to making synthetic biology education available to every high school student who is interested in STEM.

BioBuilder’s High School Apprenticeship Challenge trains under-represented high school students in hands-on life science laboratory bench work. The ultimate goal is for students to complete a paid summer internship at an academic or life science company lab. How does this work, you ask?

Students attend an 8-week training program at the BioBuilder Learning Lab, meeting twice each week after school and on Saturday mornings. The participants work in teams on synthetic biology projects that help them build technical knowledge, lab technique skills, research-based thinking, and professional skills.

The program goes beyond in-house training, however. BioBuilder encourages students who complete the training to pursue one of the paid summer internships that the program helps arrange with local labs. The solid knowledge and skills the students learn during their training make them a valuable team member from the very first day of their summer work.

The Apprenticeship Challenge began in 2016 and, as of 2020, 103 students have completed the training program with 59 going on to complete paid internships.

The fine print: High school students from the Boston-metro area that are 16 years of age or older may apply (or be nominated by a teacher or advisor) for the Apprenticeship Challenge. Students must be from under-represented backgrounds, identify as economically disadvantaged, or go to school in underserved communities. Students who successfully complete the program receive a $100 stipend and assistance in securing a paid summer internship. BioBuilder plans to resume the Apprenticeship Challenge program in the spring of 2022. This year, BioBuilder is offering an “Apprenticeship-like” exploratory program.

Register your interest in our spring program here.

The best way to explain how valuable this program has been for participants is through their own words.

Success Story #1!

Teaching lab @ LabCentral

Meet Romaisa, a current student at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. As a 2015 immigrant to the U.S., Raisa found it difficult to adapt to a new educational approach and wasn’t aware of the new opportunities available to her. When her biology teacher introduced her to BioBuilder, Romaisa knew she wanted to part of the Apprenticeship Challenge. She participated in the Apprenticeship Challenge in the spring of 2019 and went on to a paid summer internship at Eikonizo Therapeutics. Romaisa describes her experience as “opening my eyes to the research side of medicine” and making it possible for her to “see myself reaching my goals.” She also cites the way the training and internship helped her strengthen her critical thinking skills and professional skills.

Success Story #2!

Kevin for blog

Now meet Kevin, a first generation Salvadoran-American now studying chemical engineering and biochemistry at Tufts University. Kevin enjoyed science since his childhood years, but it wasn’t until he took AP Biology in high school that he fell in love with biology. He discovered BioBuilder when Dr. Kuldell gave a presentation to one of his science classes. He completed the Apprenticeship Challenge in the spring of 2019 and did his apprenticeship at BioBuilder during the summer, testing the synthetic biology lab kits that BioBuilder provides to schools. Kevin describes it as “one of the most transformative experiences of my life.” Learning about and doing synthetic biology work showed him the enormous possibilities inherent with synbio, and how much “change for the good I could accomplish” through it. Kevin is passionate about helping others, and his Apprenticeship Challenge experience has propelled him to accomplish just that in new and exciting ways.

Success Story #3!

Susana for blog

Also meet Susana, a senior studying biochemistry at Simmons University. Susana discovered BioBuilder thanks to her high school counselor. She completed the Apprenticeship Challenge in the spring of 2017 and did a summer internship at BioBuilder. She credits the lab skills and methods she learned during that time with putting her ahead of her high school peers and helping her with her college labs and paid work in college research labs. Since then, Susana has also completed internships at Indigo Ag and Mass Biologics. Susana describes her BioBuilder experiences as “life changing” and “important in building her professional network and relationships.” Similar to Romaisa, Susana also says her BioBuilder Apprenticeship experiences piqued her interest in the research side of medicine, and she hopes to someday incorporate synbio into her medical career.

These are just three of the many students who have been inspired and empowered by their participation BioBuilder’s High School Apprenticeship Challenge.

Can you sense the opportunity gap narrowing?


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