student works with young expierimenters

K-14 Biotech Education in Northern California

biotech system logoBioTech SYSTEM is a K-14 STEM education consortium administered by the UC Davis Biotechnology Program in collaboration with regional colleges and universities, community organizations, local governments, school districts and industry partners. The overarching goal of BioTech SYSTEM is raising awareness of biotech career paths, supporting students and teachers in experiential learning opportunities and improving public science literacy. Flagship activities of the BioTech SYSTEM are Train-the-Trainers Workshops for biotech educators, the Teen Biotech Challenge poster competition for middle and high school students and the SPARK Summer Research Program in Stem Cell Biology.

Picnic Day Kids

Consortium members participate in a variety of ways:

  • provide in-kind and financial support of training opportunities and contests for educators and students
  • volunteer as seminar speakers, e-mentors, science fair and career fair experts 
  • offer on-site research tours, job shadows and internships to educators and students
  • support laboratory equipment loan and donation programs
  • share information on biotech training and research opportunities, fellowships and awards
  • serve on secondary and post-secondary biotech program advisory boards

As a group, we hope to engage diverse segments of society in conversations about life science impacts on health care, agriculture, and the environment.

BioTech SYSTEM History

The founding meeting of the consortium took place on July 8, 2005, and was a grassroots effort organized by Dr. Judy Kjelstrom (UC Davis Biotechnology Program), Dr. David Gilchrist & Barbara Soots (UC Davis-PPGE & Biotech in the Classroom), Prof. Jim DeKloe (Solano Community College), Yen Verhoeven (Vacaville HS), and Tammie Holloway (Solano County ROP). Thanks to the vision and leadership of Dr. Judy Kjelstrom, director emerita, the BioTech SYSTEM has a long-term administrative home within the UC Davis Biotechnology Program. Under the stewardship of the founding director, Carey Kopay (August 2005-Oct 2006), the consortium added ~100 members and was instrumental in the launching the long-running Teen Biotech Challenge contest (2005 - present).

Biotech SYSTEM and the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology

Since November 2006, Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung has directed the BioTech SYSTEM, leading train-the-trainer workshops for secondary and post-secondary instructors, organizing the Biotech Expo and Teen Biotech Challenge student contests, serving on advisory boards, giving invited presentations and raising support for consortium activities. She serves on the Education Committee of the SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity, along with Director Emerita Kjelstrom. MOSAC opened its doors in fall 2021, and we anticipate that BioTech SYSTEM will be partnering closely on public outreach activities as this public science museum expands engagement with STEM educators in the region. Biotech SYSTEM events and activities would not be possible without the help of Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology PhD student volunteers, who give their time and expertise generously to help inspire the next generation of STEM scholars. They serve as e-mentors, science fair activity hosts, seminar speakers and contest judges throughout the year.  In return, outreach provides an opportunity for DEB students to acquire project management, teaching, mentoring and science communication skills that will serve them well in a variety of professional biotech careers.  

Biotech Careers and Training

Favorite comprehensive resources for K-14 students and teachers looking for information on biotech careers are (in no particular order):

1) For biotech undergraduate education in Northern California we work closely with educators in the UC Davis Biotechnology Major, American River College, Solano Community College and City College of San Francisco biotechnology programs. Each of these programs provides high quality educational experiences and opportunities to conduct professional internships and job shadows. Additional community college biotech training programs in the Bay Area include Contra Costa College, Ohlone College and Skyline College.   

2) For guidance on whether a career in biotech would suit individual students, a wonderful resource is the Guide to Life Science Careers by Dr. Karen Peterson, available at Scitable, an online science education resource maintained by the Nature Publishing Group.

3) The California Employment Development Department has a regionally focused website, Biotechnology in California. This data-rich resource includes profiles of specific biotech jobs found in the state, including education and training requirements, wage information and job outlooks. Biotechnology Program directors, Dr. Kjelstrom and Dr. Jamison-McClung, provided expertise and editorial support for the team who developed this online resource.

4) is a great tool for those interested in ag biotech jobs. We recommend that students look at current job listings for careers of interest, take note of the required skills and formal training, then aim to acquire that background. This is a great website for information gathering and has regional, national and international coverage.

5) UC Davis C-STEM Center offers K-14 teacher professional development and curricula for robotics and coding, two important disciplines for scaling up biotechnology research and analyzing large data sets. Biotech teachers can then incorporate basic activities in their classrooms or work on interdisciplinary projects with math and physical science teachers. We strongly encourage biotech students at all levels (K-graduate school) to gain experience in robotics, computer programming and data analysis as foundational skill sets for life science research.

Biotech-Related Podcasts & Videos

23andMe on YouTube 23andMe is a company that provides personal genomics analysis. The "Genetics 101" series is a fantastic introduction to personal genomics.
Best Food Facts A library of fact-based videos from experts on GM crops, food safety and nutrition.
BIOChannel on YouTube The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) collection of biotech-related videos are available as a collection on YouTube.
KhanAcadeny - Biology KhanAcademy provides online educational videos on a broad range of topics. The Biology section aims the knowledge at the senior high school, college freshman level.
Scientific American Podcasts & Videos Sixty-second podcasts and streaming videos that address topics from a wide range of scientific disciplines. An archived, searchable database is available and there are many biotech-related stories to be found!
Science Friday National Public Radio's Science Friday website is a great resource for science podcasts and videos, plus tips for teachers new to the use of online media in the classroom.
TEDTalks about Science Hundreds of TED talks on various science topics.
UCTV Science Videos bringing a range of University of California science research areas to the public.