Female student works in lab

Lowell Sun
By Rick Sobey

LOWELL -- UMass Lowell and three area schools are getting quite a boost from the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced a Massachusetts Life Sciences Center capital grant round on Thursday -- funding research centers and life-sciences training facilities at colleges, universities, middle schools and high schools.

UMass Lowell is receiving $5 million to construct biomedical engineering labs in partnership with industry partners.

Area schools receiving life-science grants are: Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica ($110,000), Dracut's Richardson Middle School ($60,000) and Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford ($101,476).

The funding is intended to build strong regional economies, invest in workforce development, and establish deep talent pipelines from high schools to universities to the private sector.

"This is great," said Julie Chen, UMass Lowell's vice chancellor for research and innovation. "We're really happy to expand our ability to train the next generation workforce in biomedical engineering.

"A lot of companies in this region are in the biomedical field, so we can train students and get them connected sooner to the industry," she added.

The $5 million grant will provide the necessary infrastructure to support the growth of UMass Lowell's Biomedical Engineering (BME) program.

The university expects that students will be working in the new labs within three years, and that within five years, it will graduate 100 students (two cohorts) from the BME program, with 95 percent moving into positions with medical device firms or pursuing advanced degrees in related fields.

In addition to UMass Lowell, the governor announced about $580,000 in STEM equipment and supplies for high schools and middle schools; the bulk of this funding will modernize vocational training in applied science and engineering.

At Shawsheen Tech, the $110,000 will help the school equip a new Advanced Manufacturing Medical Device and Robotics Technicians' Lab.

"It's exciting for us," Superintendent Tim Broadrick said. "It's exciting because we know that in our area north of Boston and in the Merrimack Valley, our students are entering a workforce with high-tech manufacturing and health-care businesses.

"This represents a big step into the future," he added.

At Nashoba Tech, the $101,476 will be used to create an Automated Bio Lab, connecting the school's engineering, robotics and biotechnology programs, and introducing students to robotics applications in the life sciences.

"We're very excited," Superintendent Denise Pigeon said. "This helps us continue to modernize, and prepare our students for the future and moving on to these fields.

"It's a good next step for our program," she added.

At Dracut's Richardson Middle School, the $60,000 will be used to equip a new STEAM program, and update science classrooms to reflect Next Generation Science Standards. Superintendent Steven Stone could not be reached for comment.

Other schools that received grants are Greater Lawrence Technical High School in Andover, Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington and Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill.