University dedicates new biotechnology laboratory

April 12, 2024
Biology student Adama Bangura at research talk
Group photo of biotech lab ribbon cutting
Fitchburg State University celebrated the dedication of its new biotechnology research lab on Wednesday, April 10. From left, Dean of Health and Natural Sciences Jennifer Hanselman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia A. Marshall, Susan Templeton of State Sen. John Cronin’s office, Fitchburg Mayor Samantha Squailia, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Vice President of Education and Workforce Programs Ryan H. Mudawar, University President Richard S. Lapidus, Biology and Chemistry Department Chairman Michael Nosek, and Biology and Chemistry Department Professor Erin Rehrig.

Fitchburg State University dedicated its new biotechnology research laboratory this week during a daylong celebration of its investment in life sciences that included presentations by students and career networking opportunities. 

University President Richard S. Lapidus welcomed guests including representatives from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, MassBioEd and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, as well as local elected leaders who celebrated the impact of the laboratory and what it represents. (See more photos from the event on the Burg Blog.)

The laboratory, located in the Antonucci Science Complex, was created by a grant worth nearly $750,000 from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MSLC), a quasi-public economic development and investment agency with a mission of supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts.

“The laboratory’s equipment provides state of the art tools for hundreds of students in our STEM programs, who are guided by our dedicated faculty to develop skills and prepare for rewarding careers in the state’s fast growing life science industry,” President Lapidus said. “I thank our generous partners for investing in Fitchburg State’s students and their boundless potential.”

MLSC Vice President of Education and Workforce Programs Ryan H. Mudawar said the new laboratory emerged from discussions with Fitchburg State faculty two years ago about their needs and aspirations for students in their disciplines. “That’s why the MSLC was created, to transform life sciences education,” said Mudawar. “We cannot continue to be a global leader if we don’t have a workforce development pipeline. You are the future of this industry.”

The program, organized by the university’s School of Health and Natural Sciences and the office of Dean Jennifer Hanselman, included presentations by students who participated this academic year in paid research opportunities supported by a grant from the Moderna Charitable Foundation.

Biology student Adama Bangura at research talk
Adama Bangura '24

Adama Bangura, a senior from Boston majoring in biology, worked with faculty mentor Dennis Awasibsah and fellow research scholars Zachary Desir and Jack Gangemi on a project exploring the efficacy of antimalarial drugs. Bangura said the research focus resonated with her as her family is from Africa, where malaria remains a potent concern. “Studying this is near and dear to my heart,” she said.

Bangura, who like the other research participants was paid a stipend through the grant, said she learned new techniques and equipment through the project. “This experience has made me think a little differently about my career path,” she said. She is exploring graduate school options and is considering medical school.

Stephanie Pelletier discusses research project
Stephanie Pelletier '24

Stephanie Pelletier, a senior from Ashby majoring in biology with a concentration in biotechnology, worked with faculty mentor Eric Williams and fellow research scholars Ahmed Mustafa, Cyan Neglawi, Melanie Mejia and Steven Basaistegui on a project modeling muscular dystrophy in cell culture.

Pelletier said working on the project was educational and provided her with valuable perspective as she prepares to enter the workforce after graduation. “I’m really thankful to have this experience under my belt,” she said. “I won’t be starting from scratch.”

Following the ribbon-cutting and tour, the day’s programs included a panel talk and career networking session with industry professionals that was presented in partnership with MassBioEd. (See photos from the panel and networking session on the Burg Blog.)