Student Success

Alumni in the Spotlight

Heather's Story

Heather is a SWC Biotech alumni

How did the SWC Biotechnology Program help you?

I first heard about the Biotechnology Program by seeing an advertisement in the Southwestern Catalog and decided to take the classes while I waited to get into San Diego State University.

One of my major personal challenges has been getting close to people. I have had a hard time maintaining friendships because growing up many of my very close friends have died of cancer related illnesses. This caused me to become much more reclusive than many people and I think that the Biotechnology program challenged me to come out of my shell and become more accessible to people.

Some of my personal successes though this program have been working as the BESTI project clerk while I was in the program and all of the experiences that has taught me. From working with hundreds of students in the public schools to experimental preparation to scheduling teaching assistants there was never a dull moment. Though the administrative skills that I gained though that process I developed a Biotechnology curriculum and taught it during our College for Kids program which is an outreach program for high-achieving 4th-9th grade students. I also believe wholeheartedly that I would not have the job that I have today without the skills that I gained during the program.

I honestly cannot come up with an area in which the biotechnology did not help me in someway. I became a better, more organized student, I learned how to work smarter and not harder while still not sacrificing the quality of my work, I learned how to access information in a variety of ways, I learned how to think laterally and not take knowledge or information for granted.

SWC Biotechnology highlight?

During my time in the Biotechnology Program I was able to learn a great deal of new skills in a welcoming and supportive though challenging environment. I was able to work both independently and cooperatively in a laboratory. The Biotechnology Program was a fantastic experience in which the instructors perfectly juggle their roles as parents, facilitators, teachers, mentors and more. Your fellow students over time transform into colleagues. As well, my eyes and mind became more aware of both sides of the ethical coin which has been flipped in this brave new world where genetic information is literally becoming decoded constantly.

Most memorable SWC Biotechnology moment?

My favorite moment (and there were many happy moments) was probably when I received my final grade for the Lab Skills II class and Dr. Bakhiet had written in red Sharpie on a little goldenrod sheet of paper that she slipped in my laboratory notebook that it was the best notebook she had ever seen. I still have that note and it is one of the things that I am most proud of during the program.

Oscar's Story

Oscar is a SWC Biotech alumni

How did the SWC Biotechnology Program help you?

By attending Southwestern College, I have significantly increased my scientific knowledge and as a result I was promoted from Associate Scientist to Senior Associate Scientist

SWC Biotechnology highlight?

The professor's exceptional dedication.

Most memorable SWC Biotechnology moment?

Receiving a recognition award from Dr. Nouna Bakhiet.

Matt's Story

Matt is a SWC Biotech alumni

How did the SWC Biotechnology Program help you?

I learned of the Biotechnology program from Dr. Nouna Bakhiet and am a member of the first class. Completing the Biotechnology Certificate and obtaining a summer internship prior to transferring to SDSU were among my goals. I was the first student to complete the requirements for certification. Dr. Bakhiet was instrumental in helping obtain my first internship with the Philips Lab at the Vaccine Research Institute of San Diego. There, I had the opportunity to hone the skills that I learned at SWC as well as expand my repertoire.

The summer before I transferred to SDSU I was awarded another internship with the Department of Energy in the Community College Research Institute by Dr. Yun You, a mouse geneticist. It was there that I found my greatest challenge. My first project was to find restriction length polymorphisms among D15mit markers on chromosome 15 between two strains of inbred mice. The project entailed performing polymerase chain reactions (PCR) on gDNA isolated from each strain of mouse. I was given a PCR protocol to follow and began working on the project. After several weeks of no success, I was ready to abandon the internship. I gave it one last shot and asked Dr. You for the protocol that came with the primers for the PCR. The supplier's protocol had been optimized by a former tech, as is common practice, to the procedure that I was following. I ran the reactions as the supplied with primer and there was noticeable improvement in the results. I had to tweak the procedure to optimize the reactions. I learned how frustrating science can be and that sometimes you have to follow your gut, even when your superiors are in doubt.

I left my internships and the Biotechnology Program with the confidence that I could contribute to any scientific investigation. The Biotechnology Program also helped me form the network and develop the skills and experience to obtain my current position.