Part Two: A Look Forward
Read part one of Robert’s story
Enabling future biotechnology leaders
The primary success of the BioGENEius Challenge is bringing biotechnology into the schools of our communities, engaging tens of thousands of students, teachers and parents in the scientific process.
Equal opportunity to engage in the scientific process has been established through open access to tools and educational materials made available through this program. This is a fundamental principle of the program. Any student who has an idea is able to research options, develop a proposal for their research and submit an application.
The skills typically expected from a graduate level student, such as reviewing current literature, assessing a scientific problem and presenting a research idea through experimental methodology, are now being practiced at the high school level. Students, who only a few years earlier learned about cells and DNA, are now proposing ideas on how to use applied biology to address medical, agricultural and environmental problems
But they cannot succeed alone. Mentors have been fundamental to the program. Leading scientists from the industry and academia have played a vital role in helping students to test their ideas in a laboratory setting. High schools simply do not have the latest technology or equipment to allow students to engage in this level of applied biological research.
Why it’s so important to our industry
The active engagement of students in the sciences has been a huge success. Students who succeed at the national levels of this competition are most often given a free choice of schools they wish to attend and careers they wish to pursue. Innovation has been well engrained as a fundamental value for the sector.
For the industry, and specifically the commercial stakeholders of the biotechnology industry, the BioGENEius Challenge has helped to demonstrate the importance of the commercial applications of biotechnology. Our industry, while research-enabled, is not driven by fundamental research. It is the applications and commercial products of biotechnology that allow us to address global problems of health, food supply and environmental remediation.
The industry has been a critical partner to the BioGENEius Challenge and is credited for having the foresight to invest in future leaders who will continue to develop and bring to market new biotechnologies to address the challenges of our global community.
About the Author
Robert Merson is an alumnus of the very first BioGENEius competition, attending the BIO conference as a high school senior in 1994. Following a university education in the sciences, he held several positions in the life sciences sector before settling on a career in management consulting. He has worked with firms in Toronto and Washington, D.C., and launched his own life sciences practice in 2005. Robert remains actively involved in career mentoring for students in the sciences, and has been selected as a judge for this year’s International BioGENEius Challenge.