Program Paves Way for Promising Careers in Biotechnology

Can you imagine being able to contribute to a medical cure that could save the life of a beloved family member? Former Glendale Community College student Jason Goldstein, whose grandmother died of colon cancer, can.

“The signs were there, but it wasn’t diagnosed early enough,” said Jason. Seeing his grandmother die made him realize the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. He learned that more people were needed in the field of biotechnology, and it struck a chord with him.

Jason wasn’t always a scholar. In fact, he went to six different high schools in two different cities, where he dropped out, had some difficult times in life…..and finally completed his G.E.D.

But despite his many challenges and a lack of focus in high school, he did remember how well he did in his chemistry and biology classes. “When I got my head together, I went to Glendale Community College,” he says, crediting not only the school’s proximity to home, but the cost – and most important, the possibility to pursue a degree in biotechnology.

Now 34, Jason has completed both an Associate degree General Education Curriculum (AGEC) and an Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) in Biotechnology and Molecular Biosciences at GCC, where Dr. James Tuohy heads the biotechnology program.

“Dr. Tuohy’s program is fantastic for anyone who wants to learn about DNA, proteins and molecular research,” says Jason, now a student at Arizona State University West in the Cell and Molecular Biology Research (CaMBR) program. He started interning at ASU while still a student in the GCC biotechnology program.

Jason’s fascination with DNA and proteins has sparked an interest in DNA manipulation and protein purification. He is now taking Analytical Biochemistry, a 400-level class at ASU. “In this upper-division class, we’re doing things I already did at GCC in Dr. Tuohy’s program,” said Jason. “That’s the truly amazing thing.”

Another recent GCC graduate, Stephanie Schumaker, transferred to the ASU West CaMBR program after earning her Associate in Applied Science in Biotechnology and Molecular Biosciences.

A married mother of three, she was born and raised in the Phoenix area, graduated from Greenway High School, and started attending GCC when she was 37 or 38 years old, when her husband medically retired from the military. She’s now 43.

She says she chose Glendale Community College over other options because it had the finest reputation for outstanding faculty and research, yet was small enough to care.

That caring paid off when health challenges intervened – not only her husband’s, but her parents and other family members – and when she had her third child.

But she just didn’t give up. “I received fantastic help and encouragement from everyone at GCC,” says Stephanie. She cites the support of Hannes Kvaran, James Tuohy, Joseph Springer, Sagarika Dash, and physics teacher David Raffaelle in helping her complete the GCC program successfully. In fact, her cumulative 3.9 GPA qualified her for highest honors.

Stephanie says she then moved seamlessly from GCC into the ASU West CaMBR program, where she has been for the past three semesters. The best thing about her chosen field of study? “It’s all amazing.  Love, love, love it,” she responds.

She has interned and continued to work in Dr. Todd Sandrin’s lab at ASU West. She’s been the first author on one publication and third author on another. She’s worked on a project for the University of Arizona’s environmental department in Dr. Sandrin’s lab and continues to receive valuable experience.

Likewise, Jason is doing research and publishing, currently using a form of mass spectrometry. He’s learned statistics and other aspects of the greater scientific community. He describes the ASU West CaMBR program as “phenomenal.”

Both students say GCC provided them with a great foundation for taking their schooling further. Stephanie offered, “I cannot say enough great things about GCC and Dr. Tuohy’s program!”

Jason concurred, adding, “At GCC, students have full access to laboratory equipment, and therefore, literally get hands-on training. Because of that, I was very well prepared for my biochemistry degree.”

“We can offer our students more hands-on training here because of our smaller class sizes,” said Dr. Tuohy.

Jason is shooting for not just one, but two, bachelor’s degrees. Happily, both of his GCC degrees transfer smoothly to ASU West:  his AAS degree to the CaMBR program, and his AAA degree to the Medicinal Biochemistry program.

Jason says he’s thankful to Glendale Community College for giving him a good foundation. “GCC was the best decision I’ve ever made; it’s where my whole life turned around,” he reflected.

“It will always be home to me….it’s where I kind of grew up,” he continues.

He says coming through hard times makes him appreciate it all the more. “I’ve seen a rougher side of life and now know the value of an education because I know where it will take you. It’s been a chore and a joy,” he reflects.

Ultimately, Jason thinks he may pursue protein engineering or cancer research. He says tiny devices will help detect abnormal concentrations of metabolites and hormones, contributing to real-time diagnoses that will save people’s lives. And he wants to be part of it. “There’s still so much left to do,” he says.

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One thought on “Program Paves Way for Promising Careers in Biotechnology

  1. Dr. Tuohy really is a standout professor. His program is so in depth and hands-on, it trains you for the “outside” world! I really can’t say enough about him or the biotech program. His dedication to it is evident in the success of these and many more students.

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