As an upper-level Chemistry major at OTC, Megan Westwood’s current transcript naturally reflects many credit hours awarded in CHM and other STEM courses. So, it was a bit of a surprise when she became aware that something was missing. “As a chemistry major taking upper division courses,’ Megan said, “I [sic] noticed a large gap in the knowledge that my peers know and what I know.” This ‘gap’ was a lack of intensive laboratory experience on industry-relevant equipment. To fill this gap, Megan turned to the MSW Chemical Laboratory Technology [CLT] Certificate program.
Obtaining a CLT certificate provides students with a year of hands-on, real-life, laboratory experience—currently in high demand by most employers. “One of the reasons I was drawn to the program initially is that it is lab-based, which lets us as students hone our lab skills and gain confidence while still in an academic setting,” she stated.
To date, OTC’s CLT program is only the second one offered within the state. The skills it imparts are critical for Megan’s transition to gainful employment. “As an undergraduate student, the instrumentation I used allowed me to have an upper hand when applying for research and internships, because I don’t require additional training. A requirement of the program is to take lab courses in several branches of science, which makes the students who graduate start out as more knowledgeable laboratory employees and students. The real-life scenarios of the labs permit me to apply the techniques I learned to actual situations and train me on the etiquette of reporting data to clients properly. The CLT program at OTC has given me the opportunity to become proficient in common laboratory techniques and instruments while still pursuing my education.”
Per Megan, the CLT program has been of benefit in many other ways as well. “I gained knowledge in the program that several years of chemistry courses did not show me, such as the reality of working in a chemistry environment and what to do when things do not go as planned. CLT also helped me learn about instrumentation that I would not ordinarily be using in other chemistry courses.” Most importantly, she says, “It allowed me to gain important and applicable knowledge that aids in my understanding of adjacent courses and can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate levels in the field of Chemistry. It’s important to mention that the confidence I gained while taking these specific courses has been a key part of my success as a Chemistry major.”