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Bio Matters: Biotech program at Tulsa Community College opens doors for student

Jim Stafford: Program turns around career path of 48-year-old Armond Swift.
By Jim Stafford Published: July 28, 2013
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Spencer and the biotech faculty created a rigorous biotechnology program at TCC that challenges the students and provides them with a foundation for subsequent academic success. Students can earn one of two associate's degrees or a certificate for students who come into the program with a bachelor's degree.

“Every semester we conduct novel research embedded in our class,” Spencer said as she provided a tour of TCC's research labs. “The students then present their findings in scientific form. I drive them pretty hard. They will be the first to tell you.”

The TCC program boasts 26 graduates, with alumni now completing bachelor degrees, pursuing graduate education, medical school or working in private industry at firms such as Cytovance Biologics, Borden Dairy or the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

“We have wonderful labs, state-of-the-art equipment,” Spencer said. “When I have university people come through, they are amazed at what our freshmen and sophomores get to work with.”

For Swift, the TCC biotechnology program became the foundation for all that has followed.

“Basically, I walked out of the TCC biotech program with the knowledge, but more importantly, the bench skills,” Swift said. “I walked out being able to do the things that people at four-year universities don't do until they are in masters and Ph.D. programs.”

He also left TCC with a special appreciation for Spencer and the program she developed.

“I'm very emotional about this,” Swift said. “If it wasn't for her and her program ... the way she runs it changed my life.”

Jim Stafford is a communications specialist with i2E Inc. in Oklahoma City.