The biotechnology program, founded in 2008, implemented a research-mentoring program serving their predominately underrepresented and rural student population. This initiative engages students in a meaningful research experience early in their academic careers in order to achieve lasting implications for student success and long-term development of a community of successful students. Since inception it has been awarded the State of Texas Official Recognition of Texas Skill Standard’s Board and awarded over 2.4 million in extramurally funded grants including two National Science Foundation grants and a Gates Foundation grant. The program is unique for being a 2-year college that offers academic support and research-mentoring program. The Team has also embedded an authentic research component into bioscience courses. Del Mar College is a member of the Science Education Alliance program that includes the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a program that integrates both research and education for students. The program team believes the earlier students are introduced to research the more impact the program will have on lifelong learning.
Providing students access to high quality education that will prepare them for the high performance workplace underscores their two primary goals: (1) equipping students with the abilities to think critically, independently, and to solve problems; and (2) igniting and captivating science students with the thrill of scientific discovery.
Assessment shows that students that participate in research demonstrate increased retention, greater participation in campus activities, and integration into the culture and profession of the scientific discipline. Our students have isolated and characterized 46 novel viruses, and uploaded them into the phage virus database. They have annotated two complete viral genomes and are credited with GenBank submissions. Our students receive offers of employment (before they graduate), are recruited into other schools, and successfully compete for and procure scholarships. More than 80 students (over 50% are Hispanic and female) have presented their research over 100 times at scientific venues, and have published over 40 papers and abstracts. Further, over 90% have either matriculated into a 4-year degree program or have secured employment, and 50% are reporting plans to complete advanced degrees. Students report better performance in science classes, enhanced career options and direction, self-confidence, better problem solving and critical thinking skills, student motivation, and career focus.