San Jacinto College professor connects students to M.D. Anderson through genetics course
PASADENA, Texas — San Jacinto College (SJC) students, under the direction of biology professor Dr. Reza Marvdashti, will spend six weeks at The University of Texas (UT) M.D. Anderson Cancer Center studying genetics alongside well-established faculty this Fall.
Through Marvdashti's SJC genetics course, the students will attend their lab and lecture at M.D. Anderson to participate in projects like analyzing their own chromosomes; some will be working toward completion of prerequisites for entry into medical school.
"I've had several graduate students from the University of Houston, Louisiana State University, and UT who wanted to take this course, and when I told them about spending time at M.D. Anderson, they couldn't believe it," said Marvdashti, whose areas of expertise include clinical cytogenetics and molecular genetics, microbiology, immunology, and anatomy and physiology. "They were very impressed, so much so that they took pictures of their own chromosomes and talked about them during their entry interviews with their schools."
Marvdashti said teaching his undergraduate and graduate students the SJC genetics course at M.D. Anderson elevates the quality of education offered at the community college level.
"This increases our visibility within the medical community," said Marvdashti. "It opens doors for our students to find opportunities to make a difference."
Twenty-eight-year-old Jennifer Newton, a single mother from La Porte, was once undecided on which career path to pursue. She now finds herself studying molecular genetic technology at the cancer center in hopes of one day working in genetic counseling.
"I had no idea that this type of opportunity would come out of a community college class," said Newton, who will complete her associate degree program this Fall at San Jacinto College, while also starting the M.D. Anderson molecular program. "My SJC professors taught me that higher education is about taking what you learn and applying that to your life and steering you into the right career path. It's intimidating to some degree because a chance like this doesn't happen to a lot of people, but now is the right time in my life for this huge opportunity."
For 50-year-old Naghmana Sherazi, a chance to study at one of the world's most premier cancer research centers provides a fresh start in life. The single mother from Karachi, Pakistan, came to the United States three years ago, having already earned her bachelor's and master's degrees. With 14 years of experience working as an international flight attendant, Sherazi decided to go back to school to find her second career. She said she immediately wanted to pursue the cytogenetics program at M.D. Anderson after taking Marvdashti's genetics course last year.
"This class opened my eyes, and reaffirmed everything I wanted to do," said Naghmana. "I was nervous at first because I'm an English major at heart, and here I was venturing into chemistry and biology, but everyone at the College has been very helpful. I really am the epitome of reinventing myself."
Sherazi, who also teaches as a SJC English part-time faculty, enters M.D. Anderson as a senior this Fall, made possible with her higher education degrees and completion of prerequisite subjects at San Jacinto College.
As more students are encouraged to pursue career options within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Marvdashti said community colleges continue to break down barriers to create paths for students from all walks of life.
"As a community college, we have completely changed," he said. "We're inside these students' communities, with an easy commute, affordable tuition and quality instruction. The paradigm has shifted tremendously. With programs like these, more students will have a chance at earning bachelor's degrees and enter into careers in science."
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for 50 years. The College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SanJacintoCollege.