Career-Aligned Teaching and Learning

  • How can a relationship with industry impact what’s taught in the classroom?
  • How can students emerge from community college prepared for the workforce?
  • How can students jumpstart a career path when still in high school?


In a recent visit to a Bridge to Biotech class at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), I had the opportunity to talk with faculty and students and ask them about their approaches to teaching and learning, and career-readiness. I learned how this program stays up-to-date by being an innovative pathway and close ally with the biotech industry. Innovation and quality in teaching and learning are the results of constant communication with industry colleagues about their needs, adjusting the curriculum to fit those needs, and forming partnerships to place students into real lab situations where they can learn.

Despite the enormous budgetary limitations that prevent purchasing new equipment or hiring full-time instructors, the program aims to bring students up to par with essential industry lab skills. Surprisingly, about half the students enter the one-year biotech certification program with a degree already in hand, but lacking basic laboratory know-how from their four-year programs.

“They don’t know how to hold micro-pipette, a basic instrument of the field. Or how to document what they’re doing. No one’s taught them how to keep a lab guide,” says Bridge to Biotech Coordinator and faculty member Dr. Edith Kaeuper. “Students who finish the one-year certification program have those skills and can follow industry regulations.”

Although CCSF’s Biotech faculty members maintain strong relationships with industry, one of the program’s biggest needs is for many more high-quality student internships in local biotech laboratories.

“We have maybe 20-25 placements, which is good, but for a department of over 400 students, that’s really not adequate,” explains Dr. Kaeuper. “It’s not a simple thing to have internships, there’s a cost to the provider. It takes time to do it.”

San Francisco-based genetics laboratory Prosetta is in its early stages as a start-up, and yet is a primary provider of Bridge to Biotech internships. The CEO of Prosetta, Dr. Vishwanath Lingappa, a former UCSF Medical School faculty member of 25 years, has made a commitment to bringing students in and training them in sophisticated lab techniques.

“You don’t need to do something mindless and rote. If you push people to a higher level they’ll surprise you about what they can do,” says Dr. Lingappa.

Prosetta is committed to offering a different level of opportunity with what might otherwise be a low-skilled, entry-level lab position.

Lingappa explains: “We started without an expectation of getting something out of it. Our obligation as part of this community is to contribute to it. We really like the idea of the Bridge to Biotech program and taking people that have been disadvantaged in one way or another and training them. If we got nothing else out of it other then directing some young people that would have been a reward in itself. As it turns out, some people are really good, and if they don’t come with a four-year degree, or this or that certification, that’s irrelevant.”

Students working through their way through community college in the Bridge to Biotech program speak of a mixed bag of challenges. About half are starting their careers over, trying to quickly gain new skills while holding down other jobs and taking care of family. Some students struggle with the academic rigor as well as the financial load. They turn to both faculty and other students for mentoring, collaboration, and moral support to keep going.

Going forward, Bridge to Biotech hopes to create a new structure to support a contract research organization, or CRO, that brings the program’s laboratory up-to-date and puts many more students into real-life lab situations.

Reflects Dr. Kaeuper, “With faculty oversight, we could really get our students into internships in a sustainable program. Students would be getting state-of-the-art training on state-of-the-art equipment. This would really make a difference.”



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Amee Godwin, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME,