The Bay Area Biotechnology Coalition (BABEC) recently celebrated their 20th year in existence with some cake and an exceptional set of speakers.

Since 1996, BABEC has been developing strong collaborations with teachers, providing a relevant curriculum and technical support, producing cost effective access to educational biotechnology supplies and equipment, and cultivating a strong regional network of educators and community partners.

BABEC’s mission is to partner with teachers, scientists, industry, and academia to develop, disseminate, implement, and sustain a contemporary, laboratory-based biotechnology curriculum that advances the professional skills of teachers while increasing student access and equity in science education.

BABEC’s goal is to prepare a local workforce for the burgeoning biotechnology industry, and to increase scientific literacy in the high schools, by teaching science in a more direct and hands-on way. Currently, BABEC incorporates the vision of their founding science teachers (a group of San Mateo teachers and retired biotech community members) into everything they do.

The daylong event is meant to foster collaboration between partners and to get everyone excited about the coming school year.  The main theme of the talks was, science education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Bruce Alberts and Nick KappThe first speaker Dr. Bruce Alberts is the Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry & Biophysics for Science & Education at UCSF.  He has served as the President of the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2014. He was instrumental in developing the landmark National Science Education standards, and is nationally recognized for his strong commitment to the improvement of STEM education. Just this past weekend he was also just awarded the Lasker-Koshland award for a lifetime of research and science advocacy.   Dr. Alberts gave the audience his unique insight into the National Science Education standards and their problems and successes.  He was also looking for science teachers that could help him with a classroom research project.  Dr. Alberts also signed many copies of the classic textbook “The Molecular Biology of the Cell” he authored that attendees brought with them to the talk.

Dr. Jason Peters is a scientist at UCSF, where he uses CRISPR-based technologies in his search for new antibiotic therapies. He earned BS degrees in Biology and Secondary Education and a PhD in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was awarded the Nat Sternberg Award for the most outstanding PhD thesis in bacterial molecular biology. He recently developed a new CRISPR educational curriculum for SFSU that he wants to share with high school scientists.

Jim Clark is Science Coordinator at San Lorenzo Unified School District, where he is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. He was a science teacher at Arroyo High School for 32 years, and was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2008 for Alameda County.  Jim serves on the reading committee for the NGSS Framework in California, and is advising BABEC as they update their curricula to the NGSS framework.  Many of our high school partners are implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in their classrooms as well as with the BABEC labs.  Jim is one of the many resources throughout the state that are designed to support and help in implementing NGSS.

SE3D is a local education company that has developed a portable 3D BioPrinter, as well as robots to serve in the classroom laboratory.  They provide ready-to-use bioreagent kits designed for both science classroom and laboratory needs.  They are one of many industry partners that also help high school and community college faculty bring cutting edge science into the classroom.

The Conference was held in building 6.  The group of over 70 Bay Area high school and community college teachers celebrated the 20th anniversary of BABEC by eating some cake and telling stories of how BABEC came to be.   Lane Conn from Affymetrix talked about how BABEC began with $3000 in seed monies that was donated by a local biotechnology company.  He inspired others in the room to find more funding for their programs by asking local companies.

BABEC and Skyline College Biotechnology continue to influence our high school partners by offering several seminars throughout the year, including the  “Introduction to Teaching Biotech” seminar, which will occur Oct 7th, Oct 8th and Oct 22nd .   These hands-on training sessions will include topics on how to introduce DNA transformation, basic laboratory skills, electrophoresis, DNA forensics, genetic engineering, troubleshooting and planning as well as student-driven investigations using biotechnology, into the classroom.

Happy 20th anniversary BABEC and may you have many more reasons to celebrate in the next 20 years.

Article and photos by Nick Kapp, PhD