Interview with Barry Bates, Atlanta Technical College

Interview with Barry Bates, Atlanta Technical College

We recently spoke with Barry Bates, Bioscience Technology Program Coordinator at Atlanta Technical College about his career and service to the bioscience industry in Georgia. Barry is a long-standing member of the Georgia BioEd Institute Board of Advisors.

Tell us about yourself, your current role, and your vision and/or goals for your career?

I am the Bioscience Technology Program Coordinator at Atlanta Technical College, a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. In 2012, I was selected to develop and implement a new $4.8 million DOL H-1B grant-funded Bioscience Technology Program for Atlanta Technical College, including laboratory design and curricula for new programs. These efforts have brought the exciting field of bioscience to the South Atlanta community to build a highly-skilled and competitive workforce. The vision for the program is to produce highly-trained laboratory technicians to support the expanding life science industry in the region and to increase awareness of bioscience related careers to the community. My career vision is to increase involvement with helping to expand the life science workforce for the region not only with students but with business engagement.

How did you first get interested in a career in science, what steps did you take, and what has motivated you to persist?

It seems as if there has always been an interest in science in my life, but I really did not know how to pursue it until college. During my junior year at Morehouse College, I enrolled in a research course that pretty much changed the direction of my life in terms of a career in science. In that course I gained exposure to a basic research laboratory and actually remained with that research group until I graduated from college. The skills and training that I received there prepared me to succeed when I went to Purdue University for my graduate studies in Biological Sciences.

What are some of the memorable opportunities, successes and/or challenges that occurred along your career and leadership path?

One of the most memorable moments so far was the successful creation of our laboratory spaces.  An initial project of the new program was to renovate over 4400 sq. ft. of classroom spaces for the program.  As a result, we were able to develop five teaching and research laboratory spaces that give us the ability to properly train students, and it includes a cell culture facility. Attracting new students to a field of study to which many were not acquainted in the community has been one of the biggest challenges to date. However, we recently launched a new Forensics program under Bioscience and that has drawn much attention to the Bioscience program.

What are some of the challenges faced by the life science industry in Georgia and how is your organization navigating them?

One of the biggest challenges continues to be more public awareness and large-scale support of the bioscience industry. This awareness is being strongly supported through multiple efforts by various entities at the K-12 levels of education and through events such as the annual Atlanta Science Festival. Our college recruitment activities, marketing initiatives that include print media, radio and television advertisements, and participation with area conferences have been many ways that we are working to increase awareness of workforce opportunities. By increasing our program participants, the industry is provided with a larger pool of trained applicants to support the need of a skilled workforce for the life sciences.

What has interested you about participating in Georgia Bio and joining the Georgia BioEd Institute Board of Advisors?

I really enjoy the connections with industry leaders throughout the area. It is nice to know that no matter what organization one is connected with, it seems as if we all share this desire to see growth of the life science industry in the region. You feel like you are making a tangible difference in the community. Serving with Georgia BioEd Institute affords my college the opportunity to partner with initiatives that are in alignment with a goal of developing technician-level workforce training from the technical college perspective. Our connection to Georgia Bio helps us to stay current with industry trends and relevant advances in the area. That in turn helps us to continually evaluate how we train our students to meet industry demands. It is nice to be a part of a group striving to make a difference in this area and it is great to be part of the team helping to direct the vision of the institute.

What opportunities do you see for Georgia Bio and the life sciences industry in our state?

Georgia Bio has established its reputation as the voice that represents so many stakeholders in Georgia. It is needed to continue to speak to federal and state legislatures as well as life science corporate leadership, both national and globally, to support to the industry efforts in Georgia and to the benefits of conducting business here. It would be hard to imagine a successful life science industry component of the state without it. Therefore a large part of the ongoing growth of bioscience in the state will be directly influenced by Georgia Bio.

What advice can you share for students or to young professionals who are early in their career?

Get involved! Participate with groups and professional organizations dedicated to this field in the area. A number of events are hosted throughout the year and these provide a fantastic opportunity to meet and interact with life science community leaders.

What else would you like to tell us?

It is truly a privilege to serve with the Georgia BioEd Institute.  I believe there are tremendous growth opportunities for Georgia BioEd Institute and it is certainly a vital resource to aid in promoting and enhancing the bioscience workforce.