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Loyola biology professor wins $50,000 National Science Foundation grant to create a network to prep students for careers in biotechnology

| By Stephanie Weaver

Loyola University Maryland biology professor David Rivers, Ph.D., has won a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create and lead The Mid-Atlantic Biology Research and Career (MABRC) network, a network of biotechnology educators and professionals from the public and private organizations across the mid-Atlantic region committed to preparing students for careers in biotechnology.

The aim of the network is to help high school and college students gain the professional skills needed for a career in the growing science field of biotechnology and make more students aware biotechnology is an option when they consider a college major or career path.

The network will include 50 representatives from organizations in education, the private sector, government, and health care in the mid-Atlantic region who will help students with professional development, recommend courses, and provide internships.

“The mid-Atlantic region is recognized nationally as a hotbed of biotechnology innovators and educators,” Rivers said. “I’m confident that the network will show students that there’s more to careers in science than they know.”

Rivers said the idea for a network came to him from the biology career conference that he co-developed with fellow Loyola biology faculty in 2013. He saw many students discover biotechnology opportunities too late in their academic career to gain the necessary course background and research experience to best position them for a career in biotechnology.

Rivers also wanted to be able to connect students with authentic research opportunities through a network. Currently, Loyola students often have to look outside the University on their own to find opportunities for biology-focused research, at either another institution or company.

Rivers applied for the grant, and gathered a steering committee of members from the Loyola community and other stakeholders in Maryland to help develop the network.

Mike Tangrea, Ph.D., ’96, is on the steering committee and is the co-principal investigator with Rivers. As a Loyola graduate, Tangrea wants to give back to his alma mater and give current students more access to research opportunities. At Loyola, he was a biology major and fine arts minor. Tangrea currently is the director of clinical research at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and the science consultant for the hospital’s new BioIncubator.

Tangrea looks back on his time at Loyola with fondness. Now, he wants to help current biology students.

“I was in their shoes, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I want to help them find what they enjoy,” Tangrea said.

The other members of the Loyola community on the steering committee are Christopher Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, and Rommel Miranda, Ph.D., ’96, associate professor of astronomy, physics, and geosciences at Towson University,

Once the network is up and running, Rivers hopes the network will receive the NSF Research Coordination Network grant, which is a five-year grant that would provide the network with up to $500,000 to support its initiatives, including student participation in authentic research experiences within several biotechnology companies in the mid-Atlantic region.  

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