Valencia College Lake Nona Hosts Biotech Connect

Valencia Alum James Velazquez Shares Research on DNA and Transfection

Susana El Souki, Reporter

On January 25, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Lab Technician and Valencia College Biotechnology Lab Sciences alumni James Velazquez presented at Valencia College’s Lake Nona Campus on recent research of DNA and transfection alongside Principal Investigator Dr. Annette Khaled. The presentation was an opportunity for students to learn about the studies and listen to influential people in the career of Biotech.

Biotech Connect is held once a month. Professionals in the field are invited to share information about their research projects. Valencia Biotechnology Professor Susan Ingersoll, Lake Nona, shared, “So we have been trying to reach out to program advisors, get them to know about our program and encourage people if they are interested in something in that field… Our enrollment is going up this year.” The monthly presentations are designed to help students gain knowledge on Biotech topics and keep them motivated in their studies.

Valencia Biotech grad James Velasquez presents at this month’s Biotech Connect at Lake Nona Campus. (Susana El Souki)

James Velazquez was born and raised in Florida. His background started in culinary but was looking for a career where he could apply all his skills from culinary, and he ended up taking Biology and its lab section. During the presentation, Velazquez talked about the advantages of the Biotech program and shares, “People are always looking for employer’s laboratory settings everywhere. I mean, knowing PCR is such a big advantage.” Other examples of advantages that Velazquez mentioned on his presentation were Q.C. analysis, cell culture, micro pipetting, and centrifuge use, mini/midi preps, western blotting, laboratory math, and laboratory safety. 

Velazquez explained his research and studies. According to Velazquez, “DNA transfection is just a little bit of it. (Transfection) is pretty much just taking foreign DNA and putting it into a cell. And then the cell takes it up and starts expressing it.” He continued to explain the different ways of achieving transfection;

“There is electroporation, which is literally electrical current disrupts the membrane. And then the DNA just gets shut in. It is like a very physical way of doing it. And then there is chemical transfection, which is what I do. It is pretty much taking a kit. There is a certain protocol for it”.

This dynamic of learning for Biotech students is an advantage and an aid since the speakers teach them how to perform studies and learn new things. Valencia student and Biotechnology Lab Sciences major, Destiny Reynoso, 19, said, “I like how he was able to show his real-life examples of what he is learning with the skills that we are learning right now.” Observation allows students to gain a valuable understanding of the work in a laboratory. Valencia College offers advantages to the studies of different careers and also helps students to become closer to what is learned and offered at the meetings.
Sothy Kien, Instructional Lab Supervisor, says, “The Biotech Connect was created really to help students connect with other students to kind of learn about the field, what they do and just gives them a greater insight. I think it is important for the students to  learn more about the program.”