In areas of manufacturing - whether food, pharmaceuticals or cosmetics - a biotechnology technician (also known as a bench technician) plays a critical role. This person is in charge of assuring quality control, which is vital before the products go out for human use or consumption. Among the knowledge that a biotechnology technician must have are the know-how to isolate, enumerate and identify microorganisms from many types of samples (water, soil, air, your body, and food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products); prepare specimens for staining and using a light-microscope; prepare microbiological media and reagents; culture pathogenic microbes; handle materials and instruments such as pH and BOD meters, Gas Chromatographs, spectrophotometers (regular/IR/UV), HPLC’s etc; and design and perform their own microbiology experiments. Meanwhile, companies that hire biotechnology technicians include: Kisko Products, Hermann Laue Spice Company, Apotex Inc., Agropur - Divisional Natrel, Mill Street Brewery, MAXXAM Analytics, Campbell Soup Company, bioMerieux Analytics, Griffith Laboratories and Cosmetica Laboratories Inc.
To ensure they are ready for this range of duties, bench technicians attend post-secondary programs such as Centennial College’s Biotechnology Technician – Industrial Microbiology. This offering takes two years to complete and applicants must present at minimum an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent or be 19 years of age or older; have completed English Grade 12 C or U, or equivalent (minimum grade required) or take the Centennial College English Skills Assessment for Admission; and Mathematics Grade 11 M or U, or 12 C or U, or equivalent (minimum grade required) or take a Centennial College Engineering Math Skills Assessment for Admission.
Centennial College’s four campuses are split by Schools of Study and this biotechnology college program is based at Morningside, which gives students the advantage of learning industrial microbiology as well as chemistry (analytical), organic and biochemistry in fully equipped laboratories. This also allows the biotechnology college program to employ a project approach that enhances problem-solving and research skills, laboratory techniques, including appropriate safety procedures.
Split into four semesters, each semester offers increasingly advanced levels of study. During the first semester, biotechnology college programs students attend foundation courses such as Intro to Biological Systems, Chemistry, College Communications, Occupational Health and Safety, Microcomputer Applications of Technology and Mathematics. In semester two, students complete another level of College Communications and are also introduced to Microbiology, Microbial Techniques, Lab Instrumentation, Inorganic Chemistry for Microbiology. Half way through their studies, students partake in their first Microbiology Project and also complete courses such as Food Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and more. And the final semester of this biotechnology college offering sees another Microbiology Project and advanced courses such as Pharmaceutical Microbiology, Recombinant DNA Technology, Biogeochemistry and more.
It’s worth noting that Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists accredit the biotechnology college program, having deemed it as meeting the national technology accreditation requirements. In addition, the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists recognizes the Biotechnology Technician - Industrial Microbiology program as meeting all the academic requirements for certification in the Technician Category. These national accreditations support program quality and provide mobility for graduates.
Emma wrote this piece. She offers insight into the biotechnology college program at Centennial College and includes a semester-by-semester breakdown.