By Hillary S. Meeks

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – A program being developed by the Texas Bioscience Institute could give participating college biology and chemistry majors a competitive advantage over their peers interested in a career in research.

Janet Duben-Engelkirk, biotechnology department chair at the institute, presented details of the Advanced Technical Certificate program to members of the Sigma Pi Chemistry Club at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Monday.

"If you want to get into research laboratories and be a part of a team, this is the opportunity for you," she told several students packed into a UMHB classroom.

Duben-Engelkirk said the certificate program builds on classes that chemistry or biology students would have already taken, by providing a "capstone experience" of a 12-week, full-time internship where students would get hands-on experience in a clinical research laboratory.

After graduating with a four-year bachelor's degree and then entering the one-year program, students would complete their internship and have a foot in the door that other aspiring biotechnology researchers wouldn't.

The Advanced Technical Certificate (ATC) in biotechnology, and will be offered at the Institute for the first time in the fall semester of 2007.

Andrea Martin, outreach director for the institute, said the ATC may be an option for students enrolled in any college biology or chemistry program.

Students interested in attaining the advanced certificate can contact the institute to see what track they need to follow to gain acceptance to the program. The institute offers all classes needed to get to that level, and can accommodate those who have not met all the requirements to immediately enter the ATC program.

Duben-Engelkirk said that after completing the program, graduates could earn up to $32,000 a year as medical researchers.

She said the possibility also exists that researchers using Texas Bioscience Institute facilities – the same researchers who will train ATC interns – would hire students upon completion of their internship.

It was that prospect that drew chemistry senior Emily Franks to inquire further about the program after the presentation was over.

"Research is what I want to do. Pharmaceutical research is my dream job," she said.

Both Franks and chemistry/biology senior Micheleine Guerrier appreciated that, if they were hired by researchers working at the institute, they would be able to get tuition reimbursement to pursue further education.

"I want to get my master's degree and doctorate degree and do research in disease," said Guerrier, noting this program seemed like a good way to pursue her desires.

Between classes at the institute and Temple College, a student could complete their doctorate "without ever having to leave Bell County," Martin said.

Martin said the biotechnology field is booming and that that bodes well for the Temple area, which is currently the only officially designated bioscience district in Texas.

"The Texas Bioscience Institute was created by almost two dozen businesses, government institutions and educational facilities to train a Central Texas biotechnology workforce," Martin said. Institute partners include the Killeen Independent School District and Tarleton State University-Central Texas.

"Without these well-trained technicians, medical research in our area will be hindered."

For more information about the Texas Bioscience Institute, visit www.texasbioscien

For details on the ATC program, call Duben-Engelkirk at (254) 298-8630, or e-mail her at

Contact Hillary S. Meeks at

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