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Former Custodian Finds New Career Through HFCC Biotech Program

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DEARBORN (WWJ) – Zach Brukley, a non-traditional student at Henry Ford Community College, credits his new career as a biotech scientist to the Biotechnology Program at HFCC, where he discovered the program working as a custodian.

“I saw a poster advertising some of the advanced biotech classes on one of the doors in the Health Careers building while I was sweeping out some of the rooms and decided, since I was interested in biotechnology and molecular biology, that I would sign up for the program,” said Brukley, 31, of Dearborn. “I became very interested in biotechnology after studying DNA replicating enzymes, which I did on my own time. The idea that this happening in the cells in my body captivated my imagination for one reason or another, but I needed a more complete foundation of knowledge about biology and chemistry before I felt like I understood what was happening inside me.”

Brukley graduated this past summer with an associate’s degree in biotechnology. He then transferred to Wayne State University to continue his education and recently completed an internship at Enzo Life Sciences, http://www.enzolifesciences.com, in Ann Arbor. His duties at Enzo included work manufacturing components of their products, such as antibodies used in their molecular detection kits; and administering quality control tests on molecular detection kits. Additionally, he was involved in a protein extraction project on the company’s food products. Food science has always been one of Brukley’s interests.

“A lot of the food we eat is separated into its constituent components and then put back together with artificial flavoring and preservatives, but, in my opinion, it lacks the complexity of whole foods like fruits and vegetables when they are in season, as an example,” Brukley said. “For me, nature seems to make the best, most delicious foods without any interference from us.”

Brukley credits HFCC for enabling him to return to school at a more mature age as a non-traditional student and for starting a career in biotechnology.

“Because of a confluence of excellent instructors, the amazing resources for science students in the new science building and my own hard work, I was able to get a meaningful education that legitimized me in the eyes of other, more experienced scientists,” he said. “The instructors in the biotech program were extremely helpful. They would often come to class early or stay late, but beyond that, they had an excellent educational program in mind for our classes. Based on my experiences, the Biotech curriculum taught me the techniques I would need to become a credible scientist. A couple of teachers took me aside and taught me something extra, like how to use important machines in the lab. I think I gained a huge advantage taking my first two years of college at HFCC, and I’m extremely proud to earn a degree from HFCC.”

Jolie Stepaniak, director of the HFCC Biotechnology Program, says she’s proud of Brukley’s hard work in becoming a scientist.

“The success that Zach and our other students experience in their internships demonstrates that Southeast Michigan has a pool of talented individuals who are ready and able to receive training that supports the region’s transitioning economy,” she said, adding that Brukley’s story “is not unique – many of our students come to HFCC’s Biotechnology Program for retraining after spending years in a non-science career, and those students, without exception, have performed incredibly well during their internship experiences. We’re happy to provide a pathway for these non-traditional students to enter and thrive in a high-skill career like biotechnology.”

To learn more about HFCC and the Biotechnology Program, please visit http://www.hfcc.edu.

Founded in 1938, Henry Ford Community College is a comprehensive public community college serving about 18,000 students each fall and winter semester in southeast Michigan. HFCC offers more than 100 associate degree career and university transfer programs. HFCC also specializes in customized workforce development training for business and industry.

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