Biotechnology is an amazing branch of science that has the power to revolutionize the way we live, from developing new medical treatments to improving the sustainability of our food systems. This ever-evolving field is increasingly in demand as technology and biology continue to intersect. The Biotechnology Advanced Diploma program at Mohawk College prepares students to enter this growing industry with in-depth classes and hands on learning experience in labs equipped with the most up-to-date equipment.
“The three-year Biotechnology Advanced Diploma program offers the groundwork and fundamentals of biotechnology including skills in molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry and bioengineering,” said Dr. Usha Vivegananthan, program coordinator of the Biotechnology program at Mohawk College. “It also adds on more specialized but in demand skills such as advanced biochemistry techniques, immunology and virology, advanced bioengineering skills as well as management skills such as project management and managing a lab.”
Students can hone and develop their skills through labs and research projects. “In addition to our labs, students have opportunities to work on research projects and gain skills working on a real-world project,” said Dr. Vivegananthan. For example, the biomanufacturing process can be mimicked starting with small, bench scale experiments (100 – 500 ml), moving to benchtop bioreactors (1 – 10L), and finally to pilot plant scale (10 – 100 L bioreactors and a large distillation column for purification of bioproducts.) She continued, “Students get to make use of biosafety cabinets, quite expensive pieces of equipment that allow you to work in a very sterile environment which is what certain types of animal and plant cells require.”
While she’s proud of the hands-on experience the program has to offer, Dr. Vivegananthan is also excited to be able to offer students the opportunity to continue their learning and earn a degree as one of several technology programs at Mohawk College to offer a pathway transfer program to McMaster University.
“Students who complete the three-year Biotechnology Advanced Diploma can start in year three of the four-year Bachelor of Technology: Biotechnology program at McMaster,” said Dr. Vivegananthan. “Students have two options when using the pathway: they can take some bridging courses immediately in the summer after they graduate. That will get some courses under their belt, and they can organize their pathway to complete the degree program in two and a half years.”
She continued, “There is another option for students to take a summer off immediately after graduating, and they start the degree program in September.” This option would take approximately 3.5 years to complete. Opportunities for experiential learning follow students to McMaster as the degree program offers its own built-in co-op placement. “The program offers a mandatory co-op,” said Dr. Vivegananthan. Four 4-month co-op term opportunities are available to students. It’s not uncommon for college students to have hesitancies when it comes to considering a university program, wondering if they have what it takes to succeed in a university environment. Dr. Vivegananthan has some words of wisdom to share with students who have doubts about university.
“There is a message that Mohawk alumni who have taken the pathway try to impart to current Mohawk students who are considering university: you can do it. You have the study skills, you have the intelligence, you have the work ethic, you can do it. If you want it, it’s a great pathway, and the thought of university absolutely should not be intimidating.”
She continued, “One student told me that they started university right after high school, and that it wasn’t right for them. They found it overwhelming. Now, they’ve gone back after completing college, they’re far more confident, they’re enjoying it, they’re doing well and they’re interacting well with their peers.”
The pathway from Mohawk to McMaster has a built-in credit transfer system which makes the process straightforward. “When students transfer, their credits at McMaster are given in blocks. The credit transfer pathway has already been mapped so the student doesn’t have to worry about course outlines or learning outcomes at for courses they took at Mohawk, because McMaster already understands all of that and what they’ll get credit for,” said Dr. Vivegananthan. “It makes the transfer much easier for students.”
To help ensure their success, students have a direct hand in crafting an educational path that’s suited to their needs. “There’s a very good academic advising team for the Bachelor of Technology program that will help students plan their particular course loads to suit their individual circumstances and make sure each student finds their own path for success,” said Dr. Vivegananthan.
Mohawk alumni at McMaster have also taken it on themselves to help guide newcomers to the program. “We have some great Mohawk College students who have transferred to McMaster that serve as mentors for incoming students from Mohawk, and that is hugely important and helpful,” said Dr. Vivegananthan.
Due to the emphasis on hands-on experience and learning in college, many Mohawk students find themselves much better equipped for lab work than their classmates in university. “I’ve had students who have gone on to university say that they’re really well versed compared to their classmates who don’t have college experience when it comes to lab skills. They’re bounds ahead of the game,” said Dr. Vivegananthan.
She believes that no matter what path students choose, there is no limit to what they can achieve. “You chart your own path, but you are well prepared to take whatever path you choose is best. Even if you want to earn a PhD, that’s within your grasp.”
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Pathways Beyond Mohawk College
The Biotechnology Advanced Diploma Program is one of many Technology programs at Mohawk College that offers a pathway to Bachelor of Technology programs at McMaster. Please check your program details or contact a Mohawk Transfer Advisor to learn more about available transfer pathways.
Mohawk College programs that offer a pathway to the Bachelor of Technology programs at McMaster University include, but are not limited to:
- Chemical Engineering Technology (co-op) - 533
- Civil Engineering Technology - 534
- Computer Engineering Technology – Mechatronic Systems - 562
- Computer Systems Technology – Network Engineering and Security Analysis - 555
- Computer Systems Technology – Software Development - 559
- Energy Systems Engineering Technology - 360
- Mechanical Engineering Technology - 529