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Biotech Academy

Welcome to the Biotech Academy

Students making the Biotech sign with their hands

The Biotech Academy is a specialized learning program that brings together science, mathematics, and language arts to prepare students for advanced study and a career in science. Integrated Curriculum Includes Science, Mathematics, and Language Arts.

In the Biotechnology Career Academy students are encouraged to learn how science, math, and language arts work together. They will study advanced mathematics and use it in the context of biology, chemistry, and genetics.

This program offers a rigorous study of reading and writing that will promote connections between science and literature with an emphasis on scientific discovery. Students will enjoy exciting but demanding labs, working with the same high-tech equipment used by scientists.


Washington State Science & Engineering Fair March 2020

Photo Grid of Biotech students in classrooms

Biotechnology/biology students presented their science and engineering projects virtually at the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

Students have been working on these projects since October. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the regional fair on March 14 was cancelled. Then it was moved to the WA State Science & Engineering Fair Competition.

This year, the fair was held virtually and teams needed to log in at specific times to present to their judges.

There were 21 different categories in which students could enter-and within those general categories, there were subcategories depending the specific type of engineering or science and they pulled it off and performed amazingly well even sweeping some categories!

The BHS Biotech Academy is a specialized learning program that brings together science, mathematics, and language arts to prepare students for advanced study and a career in science.

The Biotechnology Academy: A School within a School

Our beginnings

In 1998, before the new campus of Ballard High School opened, BHS teachers at that time, Penny Pagels and Rich Mellish, developed a Science/Math Pathway program at the behest of then-Principal Chuck Chinn. UC Berkeley’s Career Academy Support Network (CASN) awarded them a three-year Stuart Foundation grant to provide support for a career academy.

Janis Wignall of Immunex (now Amgen) was recruited to chair the steering committee, and Immunex contributed $25,000 to the initial classroom/labs and provided $5,000 per year for the first three years. Teachers from the science, mathematics, and language arts departments were recruited, and Ms. Pagels became the first lead teacher. The program launched in 1999 and has since evolved into two cohorts, one beginning in the ninth grade and one in the tenth.

Biotech Academy

The Biotechnology Career Academy (aka the Biotech Academy) is a learning program that offers linked science (biology, chemistry, and genetics), mathematics (geometry, algebra II, and beyond), and language arts (including AP LA in the third year) classes to prepare students for advanced study and a career in science.

Classes are scheduled to allow for block sections and integrated curricula so that students and teachers can team teach and coordinate specified integrated units per semester. Students enjoy exciting hands-on labs, working with high-tech equipment. There are field trips, one-on-one meetings with local scientist mentors, and tours of area biotechnology company labs.

Students participate in the Central Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair, a high-school level energy competition, in their first year, a formal scientist- judged poster presentation in their second year, and the science fair Student BioEXPO in their third and last year in the Academy. There are weekly after-school study halls as well.

Students are encouraged to apply for internships at area biotechnology companies during the summer following their junior year. We have a strong Steering Committee, comprised of local scientists and involved parents, which meets monthly.

Beyond the Academy

Over the years the great majority of our students have been accepted to great four-year colleges and universities, including some quite prestigious establishments. We often hear back from these students, thanking us for preparing them for the rigors of higher education.

Regional Science and Engineering Fair and Student BioExpo 2019

Students in front of Biotech project at fair

Regional Science and Engineering Fair 2018

Preparing For the Central Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair 2018

While taking Biology, students compete for a chance to attend the Central Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair. The student’s projects are judged formally by a panel of regional scientists and experts.

While taking Chemistry, students research a scientific topic of their choosing. They present their findings to local scientists through a poster session here at Ballard.

While taking Genetics, students participate in the program capstone event, the Student Biotech Expo.

This event is an opportunity for students throughout the Puget Sound to exhibit their work on a current topic of interest in the Biotech field. In addition, during the summer following the junior year, some Biotech Academy students participate in summer internships with local research institutions or companies. Some of these internships are salaried.

Other special events also occur. For example, Biotech Academy students take overnight field trips to a Whidbey Island farm where they experience first-hand the intricacies of restoration ecology. Some also visit local Biotech facilities.

students in the forest conducting an experiment

What is a Biotech cohort?

Students in a Biotech cohort share the same science, math, and language arts classes. This fosters a close-knit community among students, as well as furthering the integration between the three Biotech academic subjects.

How does the Biotech Academy differ from the general program at Ballard High School?

While it is true that the academy demands a high level of rigor in our curriculum, most of the differences derive from other aspects. Students in the Biotech Academy gain a greater understanding of scientific concepts through the use of cutting-edge technology. In addition, the integration of core subjects provides students with a broader concept of the opportunities available in the Biotech community. Genetics students have the opportunity to pair with an advisor scientist to assist with the Student Biotech Expo project.

Is extra help available to Biotech students?

The Biotech program provides a study hall that rotates among teachers. The private attention available at Biotech study halls enables struggling students to grasp concepts that may have proven elusive in the regular classroom environment.

Recognizing that biotechnology is a dynamic industry in the Puget Sound region, the Biotechnology Career Academy at Ballard High School is a group of students, educators, and scientists who believe that by offering a sound academic preparation in high school, we can ensure that all students, of all academic levels, can ultimately find rewarding careers in science.

Biotech Pipette

We’re looking for you if you have…

  • A great attitude.
  • A desire to join the Biotech family.
  • A willingness to cooperate with others.
  • Motivation to develop problem-solving skills.
  • Enthusiasm for independent research.
  • Maturity in dealing with challenging academic tasks.
  • An interest in civic and environmental issues.
Biotech Students holding hand up for the Biotech sign

Language Arts
Taryn Coe
Kristin Storey

Mathematics
Jan Drabek

Science
Yarek Rivers