NECC Receives $1.24 Million to Update Labs in Haverhill and Lawrence
On April 1, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced $1.3 million in grants for life-sciences-related capital projects in Northeastern Massachusetts. This total includes $1.24 million for Northern Essex Community College (NECC) to renovate its laboratory space to accommodate the rapidly growing enrollment of students in laboratory sciences, and a $50,000 planning grant for Middlesex Community College (MCC) to expand its biotechnology facilities. The MLSC has funded Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education in Northeastern Massachusetts through a variety of grants, including more than $500,000 that the MLSC announced this past December for equipment and supply grants to vocational technical schools and public high schools in Northeastern Massachusetts.
“Supporting innovation propels our economy forward and prepares our citizens for the 21st century global marketplace,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Our innovation economy relies on a well-educated, well-skilled workforce, and these grants will expand opportunity and grow jobs in communities throughout the Commonwealth.”
Through the MLSC, Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences supercluster. These investments are being made under the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, proposed by Governor Patrick in 2007, and passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2008.
“High schools and community colleges like Northern Essex and Middlesex are training the next generation of Massachusetts’ life sciences workers,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, President & CEO of the MLSC. “We want to ensure that these schools have the first-rate training facilities they need to prepare young people to successfully compete for jobs at all levels in the life sciences. A recent study shows that the life sciences sectors are now creating jobs faster than any other sector in the state, so employers will be relying on this talent pipeline.”
With the $1.24-million grant from the MLSC, NECC plans to build a new lab at its Lawrence campus and to renovate lab spaces at both the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses. NECC offers an Associate’s degree in Laboratory Science that is focused on training laboratory technicians to work in the analytical chemistry and biotechnology fields. Since the program’s inception three years ago, enrollment has tripled. The Laboratory Science Program is currently supported by a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant that enabled the purchase of equipment and supplies, the fostering of collaborations with regional industry, and partnerships with regional K-12 schools.
“This generous funding will allow us to dramatically improve lab facilities on our Haverhill and Lawrence Campuses,” said NECC President Lane Glenn. “Our students will benefit as well as the local companies which count on the college to provide employees with the very latest skills.”
“This grant will help us reach our goal of creating modern labs for our students, and we will be able to accomplish this in just three years as compared to our original plan of 10 years,” said Dr. Noemi Custodia-Lora, NECC Assistant Dean of Foundational Studies and Liberal Arts & Sciences. “The new labs will enhance the student experience, better preparing them for the next level, whether transfer to a four-year school or joining the regional workforce.”
“There is a need for laboratory technicians that are trained and educated in basic safe laboratory procedures to generate reliable quality data for the life sciences industry,” said David Legg, vice president of quality assurance at Charm Sciences, Inc., in Lawrence, Mass. “With increased laboratory automation and data analysis, many laboratory processes do not require the traditional four-year degree of a Lab Analyst. Associate degree programs like NECC’s Laboratory Science Program produce graduates that can fill this need between candidates with no laboratory experience or training and those with a Bachelor’s degree.”
“As a lab science student, I know how important it is to have access to state-of-the-art labs,” said NECC Lab Science Program student April Anamisis. “That way we’re well prepared for internships and/or transfer to four-year colleges and universities.”
Custodia Lora co-wrote the grant with Wendy Shaffer, dean of development, and Judy Zubrow, dean of foundational studies and liberal arts and sciences.
MCC was granted $50,000 to complete a comprehensive planning study to identify the best approach for expanding its biotechnology facilities. This will include a clean room to support increased enrollment and workforce development, education and training.
“The college is thrilled with the support this grant will provide to Middlesex to allow us to utilize both industry and technical experts to review and consider updates to our facilities which will benefit our students, our business partners, and the local economy,” said MCC President Carole Cowan. “Biotech is one of the most exciting, successful and dynamic programs we have at the college, and this grant helps ensure that future graduates of the program will find continued success in this critical industry.”
The Technical Training Foundation also contributed to the project with a $200,000 donation, bringing total funding for the project to $1.44 million. The Technical Training Foundation was created by Dr. Ibrahim El-Hefni, a native of Egypt who was a longtime resident of North Andover and a successful business owner. Before his death he created the Technical Training Foundation, now carried on by his widow Wensley El-Hefni and his daughter Suzanne Wright.
Also in attendance to celebrate the announcement were State Representatives Linda Dean Campbell, Frank Moran, and Lenny Mirra. Representative Campbell spoke on behalf of legislators.
“I congratulate Northern Essex Community College and the Laboratory Science Program for their award of a Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Capital Grant,” said Dean Campbell. “This significant grant will allow for important upgrades to campus lab spaces. It’s critical that the college has the support it needs to continue to be a hub for workforce development and job training in the region. In an increasingly competitive 21st century economy, this investment will help position Northern Essex students to acquire the skills necessary for this challenging economic climate.”
As part of the MLSC’s workforce development strategy, in December 2012, Lieutenant Governor Murray and the MLSC announced a round of equipment and supply grants for vocational and technical high schools and public high schools in gateway cities, with the goal of furthering access to STEM education. High schools in Northeastern Massachusetts received more than $500,000 toward lab renovation and equipment. The six schools in the region, the city or town in which they are located, and the amount of their respective grants are as follows:
Greater Lowell Regional Vocational Technical High School
Haverhill High School
Lynn English High School
North Shore Technical High School
Northeast Metropolitan Vocational School District
Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational School District