Welcome to Biotechnology!
The San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) and San Mateo High has pioneered Career and Technical Education (C.T.E.) in biotechnology at the high school level. The San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway (S.M.S.B.C.P.) program, at San Mateo High, consists of a four-year sequence of elective biotechnology courses that addresses the Biotechnology Research; Development Pathway under the Career and Technical Education industry sector; and Health Science & Medical Technology.
Students can enroll in Biotechnology 1 as early as their sophomore year after completing a 9th grade biological science that includes a five-week biotechnology unit. Biotechnology 1 consists of training, practice, and student demonstration of standard lab operating procedures, including safety, documentation, solution preparation, media prep, cell culture, and Deoxyribonucleic Acid (D.N.A.) and protein isolation and analysis. Second-year Biotechnology 2 focuses on the lab skills to study recombinant D.N.A. and protein manufacturing, agricultural and pharmaceutical biotechnology and advanced D.N.A. and protein diagnostic biotechnology techniques. Students who complete Biotechnology 1 can apply for mentored internships at biotechnology companies, academic labs, and medical facilities. Internships consist of a minimum 180 hours of laboratory experience, coordinated by the San Mateo Union High School District. San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway students have other opportunities for biotechnology career exploration through field trips to industry sites and college biotechnology programs, job-shadowing, biotechnology-related career projects, and mentor-guided independent research.
More than 30% of San Mateo High School (SMHS) students take at least one biotechnology course during high school, reflecting the San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway's strength and impact on students’ college and career decisions. The San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway benefits from partnerships with over 25 biotechnology companies, academic and medical institutions, and has placed over 1000 students in mentored laboratory internships.
The San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway faculty team, science teachers, and counselors at San Mateo High School and other San Mateo Union High School District schools, recruit targeted students (via letters home, tours of the Biotechnology Training Center and field trips to biotechnology companies that host internships) to ensure a mix of students representing all academic, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. We especially welcome the “middle 50% students”— those who may not yet have focused academic or career goals —for the program. Our biotechnology courses appeal to students because they cover high-level science concepts and techniques and provide all students an opportunity to succeed. The program’s assessment system emphasizes performance standards and skills. All work is completed at 80% proficiency or higher, or students must retrain and retest. This system sets the tone that “you can only fail if you give up.” The program’s internship opportunities are also very attractive to students and assist us in our recruitment efforts. Enrollment in the program has been largely representative of our students’ race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and language proficiency.
The San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway program started in 1994 with one class of 30 students. Since 2004, the program serves over 350 students a year in one or more of 11 classes offered during and after school and during the summer. San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway students come from schools across the district.
In 2010, the San Mateo Save Biotechnology Career Pathway program moved into a new 14,500 feet training center. The training center is a state-of-the-art biotechnology training center with 16 lab stations for biotechnology students to train individually and in pairs. There are 6 common lab equipment areas for lab prep, dispensing of biological and chemical reagents, filtering, centrifugation, cell culture, cleaning and sterilization. In addition, the center contains equipment and instruments for the specialty rooms for photodocumentation, plant tissue culture, independent research, and chemical stockroom. Each student lab station consists of a set of micropipettes, a set of pipetting aids, a vertical gel box, a horizontal gel box, a power supply, a hot plate stirrer and other small assorted items. Each lab table consists of two-student lab station groups sharing a microwave oven, a pH (potential of Hydrogen) meter, a balance and a vortex mixer.
Our advisory committee consists of a variety of stakeholders (from feeder schools, industry, higher education, etc.) who have helped design our Biotechnology Career and Technical Education program. The committee recommends program modifications to keep up with evolving industry needs and post-secondary academic/training opportunities to align the courses with evolving industry standards and needs.