Teens get hands on biotech experience through UMass internships

Aug 23, 2022

While some teens spend their summers at the beach, eight New Bedford High students spent theirs researching molecular biology and learning about gene therapy through an internship at UMass Dartmouth.

Led by Professor Tracie Ferreira, the students learned a wide variety of biotechnology applications ranging from mammalian cell culture, medical laboratory science essays, biomaterials, and drug delivery.

“We wanted the students to see that ‘biotech’ skills apply to a variety of careers, and that it does not just mean they work in a pharmaceutical lab,” Ferreira said.

The paid internships, which are sponsored by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, first began four years ago in order to ignite interest in biotechnology and strengthen its workforce across the commonwealth. 

The New Bedford students participate in a funded workshop during their spring semester at their high school which makes them eligible for a summer internship.  

Recent graduate Mason Ferbert said he really enjoyed being able to get a crash course in so many aspects of STEM.

“A lot of biotech can fall into the medical side, but I found it interesting the various other ways it can be utilized like designing asphalt with recycled plastic in it, minimizing pollution,” he said.

Ferbert will be continuing his education at UMass Dartmouth in the bioengineering program this coming fall.

Along with working in campus labs, interns visited local companies that utilize biotech every day. 

They also stopped by the university’s School for Marine Science and Technology to see the its new biodegradation testing facility; the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where they learned how research is working to recycle copper from ammunition; and Mass Biologic, where they saw how companies work on gene therapy to help children.

It’s those practical trips that incoming New Bedford High senior Taliyana Ferguson said she especially enjoyed about the internship.

“I liked being able to learn new things through hands-on activities,” she said. “I learned so much in a short amount of time.”