JOHNSON CITY – Government, business and education leaders across the United States
are working collaboratively to make clear to high school students and others that
bio industrial manufacturing is a career path open to all.
Dr. Pamela Mims is one of several at East Tennessee State University powering this national endeavor.
“We knew this movement was happening, and we knew it would be a huge area of job development in the future,” said Mims, a professor and associate dean of Research and Grants in the Clemmer College. “We also knew we needed to prepare students graduating from ETSU to fill these jobs.”
The $558,432 project, funded by BioMADE in collaboration with Dr. Natalie Kuldell from BioBuilder and other partners from Ars Biotechnica and Daicel Arbor Biosciences, aims to build momentum for biomanufacturing careers nationwide, particularly in rural and urban high schools. ETSU is working with schools in rural and urban regions in Tennessee that are implementing BioBuilder clubs to research the effect of the clubs on learning of synthetic biology concepts and interest in pursuing a college pathway in synthetic biology.
Mims is the principal investigator for the grant at ETSU, meaning she will help prepare,
conduct and administer the project. She will work closely with her counterparts at
BioBuilder, Ars Biotechnica and Daicel Arbor Biosciences to fulfill the aims of the
The university has been a leader on this front in the Appalachian Highlands. In fall 2022, the ETSU Research Corporation hosted “Growing the Future: Symposium on Innovation and Education for the Bioeconomy.” The event attracted officials from across the nation, including from the U.S. Department of Defense.
“The foundational work under this grant will help our region, state and country develop and drive innovation in the synthetic biology sector, which has the potential to grow by $2 to $4 trillion per year over the next 10 to 20 years,” said ETSU Research Corporation CEO David Golden. “As somebody who helped establish the bioengineering program at MIT and founded BioBuilder, Dr. Natalie Kuldell is a visionary in the synthetic biology educational space. I am excited for the role that ETSU and Dr. Mims have in working with Natalie in this hugely transformative field.”
Mims’ work on the bioeconomy marks a shift in her award-winning career. Mims, who earned a Ph.D. in special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has researched curriculum strategies to better serve students with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Many of her courses mirror her research expertise. She has taught classes about technology for those in special education, as well as established inclusive settings for students with special needs.
She taught middle school for seven years, working with children with severe, multiple disabilities.
“This exciting BioMADE research is a shift for me, but part of what drew me in was learning that some of the high schools already implementing these ideas were teaching students with disabilities,” she said.