MiraCosta College’s bachelor degree program in biomanufacturing is the first of its kind


This is a rendering of the new biotechnology and chemistry building at MCC’s Oceanside campus. It was designed by HED and construction began in summer 2021 by C.W. Driver. The facility will support the college’s expanding biotechnology bachelor’s degree program curriculum by having additional laboratories and instructional spaces. Artist rendering courtesy of HED.

Mia Sherman, Creative Editor

MiraCosta College’s biomanufacturing program is just one of 15 in California to offer a bachelor’s degree. The initiative is impacting the accessibility of higher education through a comprehensive curriculum that will prepare students to work in the biotech industry from the community college level.

Mike Fino, the Dean of Mathematics and Sciences at MCC with a background in bioengineering, piloted the program in 2017 after working in La Jolla, Calif., for a biotech company.

“I was unbelievably excited. I had spent eight years working in the biotech industry, at that point, 10 years as a faculty member, so this felt very career-defining. It felt like everything I had done and learned throughout my time as a professional in the biotech industry and faculty/academia came together to write this degree program,” Fino said.

The development of the bachelor degree program has served underrepresented populations at MCC, with 70 or 80 percent of students in the program considered economically disadvantaged and 10 to 20 percent of students being veterans or veteran-affiliated.

“It is not hyperbole to say that it was life-changing for them to take a degree program that doesn’t set them back financially. It leads to such high gain and plentiful jobs. A lot of them live in the area, have family obligations, so the opportunity to go away to school wasn’t really available to them,” Fino said.

The chair of the biotechnology department at MCC is Barbara Juncosa, who has a doctorate in microbiology and experience teaching microbiology to pre-nursing students. She was previously asked to start a biotechnology program at Citrus College before coming to teach at MCC. She emphasizes MCC’s commitment to its students through campus resources and the program’s flexibility.

“We have structured it as a cohort program, classes are scheduled as a block in the morning from Monday through Thursday. The idea there is that students get to know each other really well, support each other, and act as a network. There is a built-in support system for working on projects and in study groups,” Juncosa said. “We also have a Student Success Specialist who is in constant communication with the students in the program. She is well-versed in all of the resources on campus and helps facilitate support services to the students.”

Recently, MCC hosted the biotech department’s Biomanufacturing Seminar Series’ weekly Zoom workshops. The seminar included industry professionals discussing topics such as bioprocessing for engineering and fighting infectious diseases using a COVID case study.

“Our industry partners have found that our students are very well prepared for working in the industry. The program is better aligned to the industry, rather than a typical biology or chemistry degree. It is very specific and prepares students really well,” Juncosa said.

Juncosa also recommends that current MCC students enroll in a lower-division biotech course to see if they are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biomanufacturing.

“If anyone wants to explore what biotech is we have BTECH 107, which is an asynchronous class that explores the ways biotech can be applied, not only to the medical fields, but also how it is affecting food, renewable energy, cosmetics and fuel industries,” said Juncosa.

The biomanufacturing industry played an instrumental role during the pandemic.

“It was biomanufacturing that allowed us to produce the Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines and allowed us to recover from a really devastating pandemic,” Fino said.

MCC’s bachelor degree program in biomanufacturing continues to expand. The Oceanside campus will receive a new biotechnology and chemistry building designed and built by HED and C.W. Driver, the design architect and construction company for the project, respectively. Fino has felt enthusiastic about the program’s growth.

“Feeding the world, energizing the world and healing the world, is all within the scope of biomanufacturing. It is a really exciting field to be in right now,” Fino said.

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