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Labs for HS students part of Bioscience Conference

WORTHINGTON -- The fifth annual Bioscience Conference may not begin until Thursday afternoon, but it gets under way that morning for a host of area high school students.

A group of 60 11th and 12th-grade students from the region will participate in bioscience-related labs around Worthington Thursday morning. It's the first time high-schoolers will have the direct opportunity to interact in labs with bioscience professionals as part of the conference.

Worthington veterinarian Steve Dudley, who works at the Veterinary Medical Center -- part of Worthington's Prairie Holdings Group -- will lead one of the labs. He described the genesis of the idea as a result of a collaboration initiated by Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Manager Glenn Thuringer, and including Minnesota West Community and Technical College and District 518.

"There was a committee organized to increase participation in the Bioscience Conference and this was an idea that came from that," Dudley said. "We were contacted and asked if there was one way we could participate. ... There is a shortage of vets, especially large animal vets, so we're always looking to expose high school students to veterinary medicine to see if they'd be interested."

The 60 students will be split into four groups that will have the opportunity to visit each lab, rotating approximately every 90 minutes. In Dudley's lab, an autopsy of a pig will be performed.

"We'll be comparing the anatomy and physiology ... and showing the high school kids the different organ systems that a pig will have," he said.

"We don't work with a lot of high school kids, but we do work with a lot of college kids and a lot of veterinary school young adults," Dudley added.

"We do have some high school kids that will just job shadow with our organization, and we'll sometimes get some 4-H kids that will come through. ... The nice thing about this is all areas of biology are highlighted by these types of programs," he said.

Ryan Mahlberg, a biotechnology instructor at Minnesota West's Worthington campus, will also host students in a lab. So will Rosemary Patzer, a renewable energy instructor at Minnesota West's Granite Falls campus.

"Renewable energy in this case is really focused on the bioscience part," Patzer said. "We're going to work with ethanol production and the biochemical reaction that takes place with yeast."

Patzer noted that a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiative is being led in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, where post-secondary schools are increasingly searching for opportunities to bring bioscience-related activities into K-12 institutions.

"We've seen more and more interest in helping the high schools and even K-12 education learn more about renewable energy, so perhaps they'll move into their curriculum," Patzer said. "It's pretty exciting for the science field when we get student interaction ... and the students usually get a lot out of it, too."

The Bioscience Conference officially opens at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, and events are open to the public. For more information, contact WREDC at 372-5515 or visit

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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