ABE-LA held its Abridged Genetic Engineering Professional Development Institute (PDI) at Pierce College,
one of the program’s 6 distribution centers. We would like to share the highlights of this intense 2-day workshop series. Participants immersed themselves in a training that combined biotech hands-on lab experiments, technology integration, curriculum implementation strategies and resources, networking, and invaluable insights from biotech industry professionals. The ABE-LA Team is incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of this PDI, from dedicated staff members to supportive program partners, volunteer guest speakers and of course the amazing high school teachers who dedicated 2 full weekend days to this biotech training!!

Planning started 2 months in advance to develop a workshop that will best benefit HS teachers and meet their students’ needs. The ABE-LA team integrates feedback from previous PDIs as well as recent best practices to make informed improvements. Participants are required to attend a synchronous virtual meeting to prepare for the in-person workshop through an introduction to the ABE-LA team and 6 distribution centers as well as the program history and offerings. In addition, teachers were introduced to the virtual LabXchange (LXC) platform and learned how to use LXC simulations, virtual labs, and videos for curriculum implementation and lab troubleshooting to complement the ABE-LA curriculum. ABE-LA program director, Shahira Badran, emphasized the importance of LXC implementation during the in-person workshop and explained how LXC can prepare students for ABE labs, assess their understanding of lab concepts and their real-world applications, refine their critical thinking skills, lab skills and techniques, as well as assist them with data analysis, interpretation, and troubleshooting. Moving forward, teachers can create pathways and courses for personalized student learning and gain access to a wealth of STEM resources and career narratives on LXC.

Teachers found the LXC session effective in enhancing their understanding of molecular biology and genetics concepts, and the lab skills required. Most teachers indicated that they plan to assign LXC activities to their students. Teachers who reported challenges with tech glitches and system incompatibility, received technical support from the ABE-LA team. During the in-person workshop, teachers stepped into the role of scientists to conduct the abridged genetic engineering lab series under the expert guidance of Master Lab Technician and Pierce College Site coordinator Karin Steinhauer. Karin was assisted by Samantha Leano, Robert, Nguyen, Mitsy Natareno and Kennedie Dolye who represent ABE-LA’s other distribution centers. Teachers learned how to use micropipettes and other lab tools to conduct experiments that included transforming bacteria with recombinant DNA that contains the Red Fluorescent Protein (RFP) gene to create RFP as a recombinant protein product. Biotech companies apply similar genetic engineering techniques in bioprocessing/biomanufacturing to produce recombinant proteins that can be purified to receive FDA approval as therapeutic products. Teachers developed their lab skills, observed, and analyzed data, and received many classroom implementation resources and strategies using ABE’s Genetic Engineering curriculum.


Shahira introduced teachers to the biology/biotechnology concepts underlying these techniques and their real-world applications and provided a wealth of digital resources that teachers can implement in their classrooms to ensure that students understand how biotech tools and techniques can be used formanufacturing therapeutic proteins. To keep teachers engaged and provide constant review, the presenters used Kahoots (quiz questions), and kept score to give away biotech lab equipment for the highest scores. All participants were new to this training and came with different academic and technical backgrounds causing variation in their level of understanding, interest, knowledge and/or skills in related areas. However, they reported that this PDI significantly enhanced their knowledge of molecular biology concepts, lab skills, and ABE curriculum implementation as indicated by our post-survey outcome. Shahira presented on the importance of implementing biotech career exploration activities to complement the ABE curriculum and raise awareness for the SoCal biotech landscape, workforce needs and hiring trends. To that effect, she provided an overview of the biotech domains, real-world applications, and products, as well as biotech education pathways, job areas, and scientific/non-scientific careers.

Since it has been an ABE-LA tradition to host a “veteran teacher” as guest speaker, we are very grateful to Wendy Wooten, a recently retired teacher with 45 years of teaching experience, the last 35 years of which have been in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Wendy has been involved in STEM+M curriculum development and implementation and created a 4 year Biomedical Science Gold Certified Linked Learning Pathway at Reseda Charter High School. Wendy spoke about her history and first-hand experience with ABE-LA, the Linked Learning Pathway that she created as well as the Synthetic Biology Curriculum that she developed as an ABE Master Teacher Fellow, which addresses data science, lab techniques, and Biotech’s impact on society. Teachers value their peer’s insight into the practical aspects of ABE curriculum implementation and its short- and long-term impact on students’ performance and interest in pursuing STEM/Biotech careers, as well as teachers’ success in closing academic, gender, and socioeconomic gaps as they assist students in achieving the desired learning outcomes.

Dr. Aron Kamajaya, Director of the ASPIRE Biotechnology Program at Pierce College, introduced his training program to participating teachers and informed them of similar workforce and career development training programs at local community colleges. He also exchanged information with the Granada Hills High School teacher to explore a potential biotech dual enrollment course. Tanesha Duncan, LA Promise Fund Board Member and VP of Global Total Rewards at Amgen in LA, and Leslie Aaronson, LA Promise Fund Chief Program Officer, attended on the first workshop day to observe and support the PDI.

Our goal is to provide teachers and students access to cutting-edge science and introduce them to the excitement of scientific inquiry and discovery through our engaging biotech curriculum and learning experiences. Our innovative science education program equips teachers to build bridges between academic programs and real-world bioscience applications to prepare the next generation of scientists and innovators. Furthermore, ABE-LA site coordinators are fully committed to providing teachers with curriculum and technical support as they implement labs into their classroom through ongoing troubleshooting and “out of the box” problem solving. The ABE-LA team prides itself on maintaining an excellent relationship with teachers post training and continuing to provide technical and lab support including troubleshooting. As the workshop came to an end, teachers left with a certificate of completion, a network of peers, access to technical and curriculum support from the ABE-LA staff, a wealth of resources, and many lab equipment donations from the Amgen Warehouse! Please continue to monitor our website to register for upcoming teacher meetings and training workshops.