Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

HFC alumnus donates equipment from NSF to program that launched his career

Atwain Atwain, a 2013 HFC alumnus, donated a Systec MediaPrep and MediaFill Automatic Plate Pourer to HFC's biotechnology program.

HFC alumnus Atwain Atwain is giving back to his alma mater by donating a machine to HFC’s biotechnology program.

HFC was the first place Atwain, a shift supervisor in microbiology at NSF International in Ann Arbor, had in mind when making this donation, after having a great experience at the College.

“Attending HFC was one of the best choices I made,” said Atwain, a 2013 graduate. “I enjoyed going to class every day. I was able to get my education and learn from the best. HFC has a great educational path for its biotechnology program. I gained workplace skills, and they prepared me for the real world. The faculty and staff were always friendly and willing to help.”

“When we decided to donate, I reached out to Dr. Stepaniak first”

Through NSF, Atwain is donating a Systec MediaPrep and MediaFill Automatic Plate Pourer. The Systec MediaPrep mixes, heats, and sterilizes agar media – a solid jelly-like substance with nutrients – which is used to culture microorganisms. After sterilization, it rapidly cools agar media at 45°C. The MediaFill Automatic Plate Pourer dispenses tempered agar media from the Systec MediaPrep onto petri dishes uniformly and efficiently.

“We rarely prepare large quantities of agar media in our lab, and we hardly used this machine. When we decided to donate it, I reached out to (HFC director of biotechnology) Dr. Jolie Stepaniak first,” said Atwain. “The machine provides valuable time saving with reliable efficiency when preparing agar plates in large quantities. It is accurate, efficient, cost effective, and saves time. Also, there is no mess and it keeps the workspace clean.”

Stepaniak spoke about how this equipment will benefit HFC biotech students.

“Students use many plates of media each semester,” she said. “These plates are used largely for growing bacteria and fungi and – to a lesser extent – for experiments studying the diffusion of molecules. These plates are made by hand by our two biology laboratory associates in a labor-intensive process. This piece of equipment could make the preparation of some of these plates more efficient, freeing up time to work on other projects. Students could learn how to make bulk batches of media by operating this system themselves. This will be another valuable workplace skill that could make them more marketable.”

Biotechnology offers Atwain a versatile career

Born and raised in Coldwater, Atwain graduated from Branch County High School. After earning his associate degree in biotechnology from HFC, he transferred to the University of Michigan and earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 2018. He has worked at NSF for nearly seven years, starting as an intern in 2013.

“I was working full-time while going to school part-time for my bachelor’s degree,” he said. “I am grateful to Dr. Stepaniak for arranging my internship with NSF.”

Atwain always had an interest in the sciences, and he wanted a career that was versatile.

“Around 2010, HFC was expanding and had just started offering biotechnology courses as a new program. I was interested in the program and immediately applied,” he said. “Biotechnology is one of the most versatile majors. It opens career opportunities in several areas, such as forensics, pharmaceutical, research, microbiology, biochemistry, and biomedical engineering.”

His duties at NSF include managing shift operations and monitoring staff workflow. He selects, trains, develops, motivates, and evaluates the workforce. Atwain also does sample processing, method development, method validation, technical review, laboratory investigations, and equipment maintenance.

Stepaniak is proud of her former student.

“Atwain contacted us to tell us about the system,” she said. “Of course, I was happy to hear from him. He was an excellent student in our biotechnology program. We are proud that Atwain has achieved so much success at NSF and are pleased that he kept us in mind when NSF was looking to find a new home for this system. Interestingly, an image of an electrophoresis gel made by Atwain when he was a student here is still displayed in the new wing of J Building on the DNA wall.”