DEARBORN — The first students to earn an associate degree in biotechnology received their degrees in August from Henry Ford Community College.

Cynthia Morris and Susan Wheeler are the first recipients of this degree. As one of the final requirements of earning the degree, the two completed internships.

Morris, the 2011 Outstanding Biotechnology Student and the 2011 Outstanding Biology Student, interned for Dr. Melody Neely, associate professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine during the summer. There, she studied the link between certain bacterial genes and the ability of bacteria to cause disease. She was also involved in refining experiments to study molecular interactions between proteins and DNA.

Wheeler, who transferred this fall to Eastern Michigan University to study microbiology, interned in the Microbiology Division of NSF International in Ann Arbor. NSF is the world leader in standards development, product certification, education and risk management for public health and safety. NSF develops national standards and is widely recognized for its scientific and technical expertise in the health and environment sciences.

Wheeler evaluated the number and types of germs in households and day care centers. The day care center study was performed in conjunction with Michigan State University.

HFCC biology professor Jolie Stepaniak created the biotechnology program at HFCC. It is designed specifically to train students for positions as biotechnology technicians in the region’s molecular biology-based industries and institutions. Its curriculum is a direct outgrowth of the technical and workplace competencies identified by Southeastern Michigan’s biotechnology employers for technicians.

In addition, the program integrates authentic work-based experiences, training in modern instrumentation and new technologies, and rigorous science content to produce adaptable technicians who support the changing workplace. Although this program centers on skills identified by regional biotechnology employers, the skills gained by students prepare them for employment in biotechnology-based industries in other regions of the country and the world. Additionally, skills gained by students in this program prepare them for advanced training in biotechnology-related fields.

“Both students have impressed me with their growth,” Stepaniak said. “I enjoyed working with both so much and wish them all the best in their future endeavors, but they will be sorely missed here at the college,” said Stepaniak.

To learn more about the HFCC biotechnology program, please contact Stepaniak at (313) 845-9646, or via email For more about the program, please visit


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