Education Report: Biologists for Hire

By Chelsey Lucas June 1, 2014

USF-Mote partnership offers local students the opportunity to earn a hands-on biology degree.

by Molly McCartney

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA Sarasota-Manatee biology major Tyler Lambert, 19, a freshman, has been attending lectures at both USFSM and Mote Marine Laboratory this year. He recently collected and analyzed his own DNA under the direction of Erinn Muller, a Ph.D. staff scientist, who works in Mote’s coral reef ecology and microbiology program.

For Lambert, who lives in Sarasota with his parents, the convenience, affordability and quality of USFSM and its shared program with Mote won him over as he looked at several college science programs. “It’s great being able to talk to the Mote researchers,” he says. “The labs and the equipment are all new, and instead of 100 kids in each lab, we have a class of 20 to 25.” Lambert now hopes to go into coastal restoration work or aquaculture engineering after he graduates with a B.S. in biology—the first time USFSM has offered such a degree.

The USFSM-Mote partnership began five years ago as both institutions were looking for ways to strengthen their relationship and enhance science education in the region.

“Back then Kumar Mahadevan was Mote president and CEO. He said they had some extra space and would love it if we could come up with the money to build student labs at Mote,” says Dr. Arthur M. Guilford, USFSM regional chancellor. “Our science students could get the best of all worlds: classroom experience at USF and hands-on experience in the labs at Mote.”

About 50 local donors—including Guilford and his wife, Lynn—contributed $1.5 million in private funds to transform a section of Mote’s marine mammal research and rehabilitation center into state-of-the-art science labs, classrooms and a student commons area.

Fawley Bryant Architects completed the architecture and design services for the project and Willis A. Smith Construction built the 4,600-square-foot laboratory facility, finishing the work in August 2013, just in time for the USFSM fall term.  Fifty-four students, including Lambert, enrolled in the shared science program.

The new facility includes a biology lab, a chemistry lab and student teaching area. The labs have storage cabinets, filtered water, freezers and incubators, and each has 26 individual student stations.

Dr. Michael Crosby, current Mote president and CEO, expects the program to create jobs and economic growth.

Mote and USFSM are creating new joint appointments for Mote researchers who will serve as faculty. And USFSM has been conducting national searches for four new faculty positions

in biology.

Students will be fully immersed in ongoing scientific research. That experience, combined with classroom lectures, is intended to prepare students to be competitive for graduate programs and professional schools in careers such as doctors, health care and lab technicians, pharmacists, research scientists, veterinarians and wildlife technicians.

“In most major universities, the research faculty generally delivers the lecture section to auditoriums filled with hundreds of students, but graduate students are teaching the labs,” says Dr. Jane Rose, dean of the USFSM college of arts and sciences. “Undergrad students don’t get to know the real research facility well. Our classes will be intentionally small so that students have close working relationships with the Mote-USF research faculty as early as their freshman year.”  ■

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