Middlesex Community College is expected to begin work this summer on converting Springs Road campus space to a specialized life-sciences academic center.
College President Philip Sisson said on Friday that he hopes the renovations and enhancements to Henderson Hall will be finished in 18 to 24 months so the college can help fill thousands of available jobs in the industry statewide.
Sisson led a tour of the third-floor site for a guest list that was led by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who authored a $363,400 federal community projects grant to equip the new center that became final a few days ago.
Plans call for two teaching laboratories, preparation rooms, a cold room, a microscopy area, and a student lounge. Sisson emphasized that construction work will be insulated from chemistry and physics classes down the hall.
The proposal, estimated to have a price tag of $6 to $7 million, first was confirmed last July as a response to ongoing workforce demands among area biopharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.
Sisson has pointed out that Middlesex was one of the first community colleges in the country to offer an associate degree program in biotechnology.
“Today is really a celebration of the work we have been doing here for three decades,” said Sisson, serving as master of ceremonies.
Dr. Mariluci Bladon, founder of the Biotechnology program, enjoys almost legendary status at the college as she continues as chair and program director. Bladon spoke at Friday’s event, emphasizing that her curriculum features not only techniques but also “social skills, learning how to get along with the other students.”
She was one of several faculty members and alumni who were seated on one side of the U-shaped seating arrangement in the Campus Center, opposite representatives of several of the businesses that partner with MCC on biomedicine. Among those at the head table were Moulton, Sisson, Provost Dr. Arlene Rodriguez, and State Rep. Kenneth Gordon
Some students took seats in the rear of the room, and one of them testified that he travels to Middlesex and Lowell from Fall River because of the program, which now operates on the college’s Lowell campus.
Moulton said that although Massachusetts is the world leader in biotechnology, the size of the workforce doesn’t match that status. Sisson pointed out that Middlesex graduates can “get into the workforce as soon as we can prepare them,” including not only first-generation students but also older students who may be changing careers.
“We recognize the impact this will have on the economy and on students,” Moulton said of the planned center.
Gordon added that the commonwealth’s educated workforce – “people of every level of education and training” – represents an edge over states with a better climate or other natural advantages.
Among the business delegates speaking was Thomas Lauzon, vice president for Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, which is building its first manufacturing facility in Bedford. Ultragenyx hosts MCC “Learn and Earn” students as manufacturing technicians at its pharmaceutical development and quality control facilities in Woburn.
Ryan Mudawar, manager of academic and workforce programs at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in Waltham, thanked the college for “continuing to be aligned with industry and what industry’s needs are.”