Wistar’s Drs. Kristy Shuda McGuire, dean of biomedical studies, and David Zuzga, associate dean of biomedical studies, spent an evening with students at Vaux Big Picture High School in north central Philadelphia to discuss all the STEM job opportunities available and for the taking here in the region.
Dr. Shuda McGuire spoke to Wistar’s education programs—available to high school students and upwards to postdoctoral fellows. She discussed how collaboration with academia and industry have made Wistar’s Biomedical Technician Training Program and Biomedical Research Technician Apprenticeship effective and successful vehicles to give students the needed skillset to enter coveted biomedical and biotechnical jobs. Then she imparted a little history on where and how Wistar fits into the dynamic regional life science hub we know today—from its beginnings as the first biomedical research institute in the nation, to how it has become a connector and engine for education in the burgeoning Philly biotechnology space.
Dr. Zuzga laid the groundwork on all the amazing science taking place in Philadelphia—from CAR T cell-trained assassins that became the first FDA-approved cell therapy to cure cancer in people who had no other options, to a new gene therapy company that created the first medicine to cure blindness. Dr. Zuzga drove home the point that the industry is booming in Philadelphia and students should set out and stake their claim in it. He emphasized that 10-years ago there were one or two cell and gene therapy companies and now there are more than 40 and the number is growing.
Basir Fulmore, a graduate of Cheyney University who is working in science, wrapped up the event and spoke to the students about his career trajectory. He talked about where he came from, the life lessons he learned in the process of attaining his science education and the true affinity he holds for science. He is a math and science teacher now but shared many stories of working in a Cheyney lab carrying out aquaponics—using fish to grow plants hydroponically. He compelled the students to enter science as more diversity is needed.
The Lower North Philadelphia CDC is a key partner, providing event coordination and sponsorship, as well as being an organization connector. Their friends at Give and Go Athletics brought a great group of students, who took part in the event and should be commended for taking two hours on a 70° day—after school—to learn more about science! It all seemed well worth it when they got to conduct their own scientific experiments and precipitated DNA from a solution. Eyes widened and smiled through masks. In those few moments you could see in each face that the magic of science homed in and made its first introduction.