It shows a weird red mass kind of pulsating. They are mouse heart cells -- pulsing -- made from stem cells, the cells that can grow into any type of cell in the body. Woodruff's students made them, or at least grew and differentiated them. He shot the video off the screen of the microscope in the lab of the biotechnology department.
"For my money, it's kind of amazing that we can do stuff like this," Woodruff said. "We're doing stuff they don't get to do in grad school."
While he has fun doing these things, Woodruff's purpose is to supply the growing biotechnology and biomanufacturing industries in
The state has long trumpeted the industry as the replacement for textile, furniture and tobacco jobs. It has grown to a
The industry has grown to the point where the people doing the work are not the ones with the Ph.Ds. Those people come up with the science, but the industry has a lot of room for people with less education and the skills to do the precise and demanding work.
"What we need are employable people with enough skills and enough knowledge to make it happen," Woodruff said. "That's what we teach."
OVER THE PAST 27 years, about 300 students have gone through ACC's biotechnology department. Some years there are as many as 80. In the early days, it was less. The program could handle a lot more, Woodruff said, but a lot of students find the subject intimidating.
"People think it's hard," Woodruff said. "But it's not. We're here to get you through it."
As far as Woodruff knows, ACC's is the oldest two-year biotechnology program in the country. He thinks it is also probably the most complete biotechnology program in the state and matched by only a few in the nation. Students are going straight into the industry with associate's degrees or into four-year programs.
Woodruff tells the students they are among about 2 percent of the population who know how to operate the lab machinery and know the science.
A BIG PART OF the reason for ACC's success is a series of grants from the
The NSF also funds a project Woodruff has been doing with local high school students for the past three years, bringing them into the lab and getting them interested in science.
This past time some of them got to make stem cells from chicken fat and turn them into nerve cells. There are a lot of stem cells in fat, Woodruff said.
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