Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone biotech fair set for today in Newark

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

NEWARK—Take a strawberry, mash it up, mix in detergent to break open cell membranes, add rubbing alcohol to separate out the DNA, and voila, you are on your way to a career in biotechnology.

Well, there might be a bit more to it than that. Learn the rest of the details at a biotechnology and health sciences fair from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at Ohlone College's Newark Center, 39399 Cherry St.

The event will give attendees a chance to see live animal cells at the new cell-culturing lab or to check out human simulators that can be programmed to display symptoms of illness.

High school students in Ohlone's Learning Alliance for Bioscience program, or LAB, also will compete via class presentations for prizes of as much as $500 for science equipment.

Although biotech leader Amgen, which has a facility in Fremont, will be there, the theme of the fair is less about industry recruiting than about illuminating what it does, said Ron Quinta, Ohlone's dean of science and technology.

He said that teams of students will use everyday foods such as grapes and oranges to build molecular models. Those in attendance will learn how to take cheek cell samples and isolate the DNA—the same technique as the strawberries.

"This is training on a technician level," he said of Ohlone's biotech teaching.

Relevant vocational skills include how to grow and maintain animal cells for experiments, and how to operate microscopes for nanotechnology research. Quinta said the college has a scanning electron microscope and an atomic force microscope on order.

LAB program students get similar training, which can count toward a biotechnology certificate. In the Tri-City area, Kennedy, James Logan and Newark Memorial high schools are involved, as is the California School for the Deaf in Fremont.

"We have a very hands-on program where they learn not only the concept but the lab skills," said Laurie Issel-Tarver, coordinator of the LAB program and an Ohlone biotech teacher.

She said what began as a pilot program in 2006 with about a dozen students now has about 240 participants in the region. The biotech fair was set to complement a career fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Newark Center, with employers expected from green engineering, bioscience, health care and other high-tech firms.

However, that event does not offer the chance to view glowing bacteria engineered with jellyfish genetics, or to break down strawberry cells and watch the DNA coalesce like puffs of cotton.

"It's remarkably easy," Issel-Tarver said. "You can just see it."

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