College of Technology Launches High School Career Exploration Program in Biotechnology


The University of Houston (UH) College of Technology biotechnology department hosted 29 high school students for Pathway to University Programs on June 13-15 to introduce students to careers in biotechnology, food science and nutrition.

Pathway to University Programs was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program. This program promotes and strengthens the ability of HSIs to carry out education programs that enhance underrepresented students’ ability to enter the work force in food-related fields.

“Students are unaware of the vast number of opportunities in the food industry,” said Venkatesh Balan, Ph.D., discipline chair for biotechnology and principal investigator for the grant. “Careers can range from being a nutritionist for a school district to researching new food sources. Ultimately, we want students to see UH as an ideal place to prepare for these exciting fields.”

Students heard stimulating presentations from a variety of industry professionals and UH professors including the program’s co-principal investigator, Tracey LeDoux, Ph.D., and biotechnology professors Albert Flavier, Ph.D., and Abdul Khan, Ph.D.

During the program, doctoral candidate Hemen Hosseinzadeh and current biotechnology students led campers through a variety of exciting lab exercises. Attendees also received information about preparing for college, received College of Technology t-shirts and swag bags and toured the main campus and Sugar Land facilities. UH student volunteers played a special role in providing activities and guidance which created a community learning atmosphere.

The program ended with an awards program attended by the campers and their parents. Each camper shared what it meant to have been a part of the camp.

“I didn’t want to come at first, but I’m really glad I did. I learned a lot, and it was fun,” said Bryce Patterson.

Bryce’s grandmother, Gloria Patterson, said, “I’m excited that he’s on a college campus. I want him to look around and have higher expectations of what he can do.”

Tanya Wickliff, Ph.D., aunt of camper Eric Davis, said, “He learned things at camp that I never knew!”

Balan credits Sharon Green, Ph.D., director of Career Services and Outreach, with inspiring him to pursue the grant. Green expressed appreciation to faculty who invest in programs for prospective students.

“Visiting a college campus and having these types of rich, hands-on experiences can completely change a student’s view of what is possible,” said Green.

In phase two of the Pathway program, 10 selected campers will take part in a four-week summer research experience between June 27-July 22 and shadow graduate students in biotechnology. Those who successfully complete the program will be awarded $1,000.