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VaBio gives students tools to succeed in STEM


 
Group picture of JMU VaBio students

JMU’s division of the Virginia Biotechnology Association, VaBio, has been an organization for students interested in the bioscience and technology fields for the past 10 years. VaBio is part of an association located in Richmond made up of over 200 Virginia-based biotechnology-affiliated companies.

VaBio at JMU gives students confidence for their future career opportunities through networking, lab visits and guest speakers. Ultimately, VaBio at JMU wants students to take these experiences and inspire them to pursue an interest in the biotechnology field.

The club travels to networking events in Virginia, schedules biotech lab tours with mini demonstrations and brings in guest speakers for seminars. Its community provides connections with employees from Virginia-based biotech companies and shows students potential employment options. Eric South, a senior biotechnology major and president of VaBio at JMU, has been involved with the club since his sophomore year. 

“We’re giving undergraduates who are interested in this professional path an idea of what they’re getting themselves into,” South said. “And kind of with the culture of science, once you graduate and leave the JMU bubble, just having the experience is nice.” 

The organization’s main goal is to give students an environment to explore career options in biotechnology and other STEM-related fields. They meet once a week to work on networking skills and learn more about biotech careers through event opportunities and speakers. 

“It gives us an opportunity to understand more about industries and about our options after we graduate,” Casey Noll, a senior biotechnology major, said. “It helps us make that initial connection, and there’s at least one place we’ve visited that I’m going to apply to, so it’s nice that I actually met the people there and understood what it would be like to work there.”

VaBio at JMU also brings in a variety of guest speakers to talk to students about both the business and science sides of biotechnology careers. Students can experience different jobs in the industry firsthand by visiting biotech labs and companies throughout Virginia. 

“These connections are a great way to market our skills to potential employers in the biotechnology industry,” said Kyle Sperber, a junior biotechnology and political science double major and vice president of VaBio at JMU.

Through the connections students build, they are able to find career direction and get a chance to showcase what they learned at each event. 

“I know it’s kind of scary not knowing what you’re going to do after graduating, but having already seen the companies and met people who are successful in biotech careers has given me a lot more confidence about the future,” Noll said. “When I first joined sophomore year, I absolutely had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Sperber entered the club as a freshman and ended up shifting his career plans because of it. He was encouraged to run for vice president the same year, and is now serving his third year in the role. His involvement helped him make the switch from one aspect of STEM to another. 

“I actually joined as a biology major, and enjoyed the field of biotechnology enough to change my major my sophomore year,” Sperber said. Read More

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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