Program Showcase

The Rapid Growth of the Biomedical Technology Field

Supplying Local Industries with Skilled Employees

The push for discoveries that improve health and make lives easier is the force behind the quickly evolving technologies in the biomedical field. Vital research projects are being conducted all over the world that may lead to cures for diseases, early diagnosis of illness and other life-changing developments.

Biomedical technology is an emerging field—it has growth potential in a variety of career applications and is widely used in different settings, including academic research centers, government research laboratories, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and nonprofit organizations.

biomedical test photo
Photo by Fred Kerney

In 1999, Community College of Philadelphia and The Wistar Institute, a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and an international leader in biomedical research, embarked on a unique collaboration—the Biomedical Technician Training Program, designed to prepare community college students for new career opportunities as research technicians.

This innovative program combines laboratory skills training with a well-rounded, science-based curriculum at the College. Students are introduced to some of the latest equipment and experimental techniques used in biomedical research laboratories. The program prepares students to work in a research setting by learning laboratory protocols; making detailed observations; collecting, analyzing and recording data; and reporting results of experiments. Students alternate between academic studies at the College and internships during the summers at The Wistar Institute, the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University and other affiliated training sites.

In addition to an associate’s degree from the College, students also receive a certificate of completion from The Wistar Institute. After successfully completing the intensive two-year program, graduates have laboratory expertise and hands-on internship experience, giving them an edge in the competitive job market.

Currently, few community colleges have such an intensive program of study. Even many science graduates of four-year colleges or universities will not have had the opportunity to develop the level of laboratory expertise as someone completing the two summers of the College’s Biomedical Technician Training Program.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, predicts that the number of jobs for biological technicians will grow 9 to 17 percent through 2014. “Biological technicians” is a broad category that includes technicians in the biomedical area and other related research fields. Many biomedical research laboratories report having difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of qualified, well-trained technicians.

William Wunner, Ph.D., professor and director of Outreach for Education and Technology Training at The Wistar Institute, serves as the director of the Biomedical Technician Training Program for Wistar and has been with the program since its inception. “Students enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia, who never thought of biomedical research as a field they could prepare for, suddenly discover that they can be trained to enter the workforce as a research assistant,” says Wunner. “Many of the graduates from the program are now full-time employees of The Wistar Institute, the Fels Institute, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or one of the biotechnology/biopharmaceutical companies in the region.”