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CareerTech Leads Oklahoma Girl into Medical Studies

Tri County Tech programs introduced Nicole Biddinger to love of science, math and medicine, leading to a $3,000 award and plans to study health and disease research.
CareerTech Leads Oklahoma Girl into Medical Studies

Nicole Biddinger works on a project while interning at an OSU zoology lab.

Aug. 15, 2013

A CareerTech science program for girls started one Oklahoma student’s journey to summer internships at a university, a $3,000 International Science and Engineering Fair award and plans for a career in fighting diseases.

Nicole Biddinger, a recent Bartlesville High School graduate and a Tri County Technology Center medicine and biosciences student, said the program for girls introduced her to a love of science and math. That led to an interest in engineering and the pre-engineering program at Tri County during her sophomore year.

A biotech engineering course allowed her to combine her love of biology and engineering principles, Biddinger said, so when Tri County added a medicine and biosciences program in 2012, she signed up.

“I believed it would give me a better foundation of understanding for the research I hoped to conduct later in life,” she said. “My time in that program this past year served as confirmation of my major in college, which is biology with an emphasis on health and disease research.”

Tri County started the program to give students health studies options other than nursing, said Jeanette Miller, director of instruction at the technology center.

“We found we had students who completed the pre-nursing program and wanted to further their education in the medical field and maybe take a different career path than nursing,” she explained. “We also had pre-engineering students who showed an interest in the medical field, and we wanted to offer them the biosciences and medicine courses.”

At the encouragement of Tri County teacher Renee Tanner, Biddinger applied for an internship at Oklahoma State University in zoology assistant professor Puni Jeyasingh’s lab, where she conducted research for a project, “Daphnia Development: A Comparative Temperature and Phosphorus Tolerance Experiment Using Resurrection Ecology of Daphnia Pulex.”

Biddinger studied the effect of climate change on the genetic evolution of water fleas, using dormant water flea egg banks from the 1500s to today. Her results showed a correlation between heat tolerance and the age of the flea eggs, showing that the organisms may have adapted over time, she said.

At the International Science and Engineer Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., this year, Biddinger placed first in animal sciences and received a $3,000 award. She also won awards at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Competition in Dayton, Ohio, and the International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project Olympiad in Houston, Texas, with the project.

In addition, Biddinger earned an Academic All-State Award and invited Tanner to present the award.

“Not only is she motivating and supportive, but also compassionate and willing to work with each student individually to ensure everyone has a solid comprehension of the unit at hand,” Biddinger said of her CareerTech teacher. “Teachers have an amazing ability to make an impact in this world, and she exemplifies that day in and day out, for which I have been inspired and am forever grateful.”

Biddinger’s proudest moment as a part of Oklahoma’s CareerTech System, however, did not result from her classroom accomplishments. It resulted from a community service project while she was chapter president of the student organization HOSA. She and her fellow students helped provide a Christmas celebration at a local homeless shelter.

“The pure joy and gratitude written on the shelter residents’ faces as we served dinner and decorated ornaments together will remain with me forever,” she said. “It was at that moment that I and my fellow HOSA members have never been more proud to be CareerTech students.”

Biddinger is continuing her education at Purdue University, where she is studying biology-health and disease. Her plans – to attend graduate school and pursue a career in research for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health – include combining her love of science and medicine with the joy she found in helping others.

“Being able to search for a cure for those battling disease is the greatest reward I could ever hope to attain in my life,” she said.

For more information about the CareerTech System, visit www.okcareertech.org.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 57 campuses, 393 comprehensive school districts and 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

By Laura Wilson, writer/editor
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