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Students gain hands-on experience with NC Bionetwork instructors at PCC

Published Tuesday, July 3, 2018
by Elizabeth Townsend

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Students enrolled in Piedmont Community College Science courses receive instruction from NC BioNetwork instructors for additional hands-on learning opportunities. The organization, based out of Raleigh, offers multiple activities at no cost to the College or students.Yasmaine Rone and Kharon Gh'Rael – Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership students in PCC’s General Biology class

PCC instructor Katie Hester invites the organization into her classroom several times per year. “NC Bionetwork has been wonderful to work with. They have enthusiastic instructors that come into your classroom and perform complex labs with state of the art equipment... at no cost! They strive to encourage and support Biotechnology and Life Science learning,” she comments.

Over the last year, students have participated in a variety of lab activities, including “A Coral Conundrum”, “What's living in the Lake?", “Dislike Broccoli? Blame it on your genes”, and "Foodborne Outbreak Investigation, Bad Food at a Good Party".

In the "A Coral Conundrum” and “What's living in the Lake?" activities, students learned how analyzing gene expression through a simulated microarray may be the solution to saving this important ecosystem. The lab expanded the students’ original lesson on coral reefs and ocean acidification.

Mary Jordan and Jenna Wallace - PCC students in the College’s Microbiology classStudents were surprised to learn that having a taste for certain foods is actually hereditary in the "Dislike Broccoli? Blame it on your genes" lab. During this activity the students performed DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR), Restriction Enzyme Digestion, and gel electrophoresis enabling them to visualize their own DNA. They compared their genotypes to their phenotypes, allowing them to determine if being a picky eater is really genetic.

The “Foodborne Outbreak Investigation, Bad Food at a Good Party" lab We again were able to use PCR and gel electrophoresis to test multiple DNA samples from foods served at a fictitious party to determine which dish contained Shigella sonnei (a bacteria that can cause food poisoning). This lab was based on a real-world Shigella outbreak in 2000.

Hester went on to say, “With budgetary limitations, it is difficult for any school to purchase and maintain expensive equipment required to perform these cutting edge experiments. NC Bionetwork gives our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs a little boost with these fun and inspiring opportunities. They also have wonderful resources on their website which are geared specifically for the classroom.”
NC Bionetwork instructor with PCC students
About NC Bionetwork:
NC Bionetwork delivers industry training courses, certificates, workshops, and company-specific skill development in biomanufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food, beverage, and natural products. Courses can be delivered at company sites, at the Bionetwork training facilities in Raleigh and Asheville, online, or locally at any of the 58 community colleges.

The STEM outreach program includes classroom visits, faculty training workshops, and career fairs that help connect bioscience industry skills with K12 and community college STEM education. To learn more, visit

Biology Classes available at PCC this Fall:
Interested in participating in similar labs? Learn more about sign up for Biology classes with Katie Hester at PCC! Classes offered this fall include:
• General Biology I (BIO 111) – Tuesday/Thursday at 1:45 – 3 p.m. on both campuses
• General Biology I (BIO 111) - online
• General Biology II (BIO 112) – Tuesday at 6 – 8:50 p.m. on both campuses
Visit or call (336) 599-2159 for additional details.

Top Right - Yasmaine Rone and Kharon Gh'Rael – Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership students in PCC’s General Biology I class
Middle Left - Mary Jordan and Jenna Wallace - PCC students in the College’s Microbiology class
Bottom Right - NC Bionetwork instructor works with PCC students in a General Biology I class