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Fullerton College Biology Professor Spiros Dimitratos Feature Story
Fullerton College’s biotech programs are regarded as some of the best in Southern California. The proof? A 2019 paper by Fullerton College Biology Professor Spiros Dimitratos included three co-authors, all of whom were Fullerton biotechnology graduates: Allison Hommel, Lauren Simpson, and Jessica Wu-Woods.
“They did productive work in a real-world environment,” Dimitratos says. “Each alumna participated in different parts of the project and worked in our lab in the industry for several years.”
According to Dimitratos, that paper (which reported on a groundbreaking new way to test water for bacterial contamination) reflects the kind of real-world experience that students in Fullerton College’s biotechnology program get beginning with their first class.
“We teach them things that are practical and hands-on that I learned in graduate school,” he says.
Dimitratos, who grew up in Greece, has always loved science. He came to the United States when he got a scholarship to attend the University of California at Los Angeles. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology, he went on to earn a doctorate in developmental and cell biology at UC Irvine.
He worked for decades in a biotechnology company, sometimes interacting with Fullerton College students who had been sent to work in the lab.
“I was consistently impressed with the quality of their education and the eagerness to learn that characterized them,” he recalls.
When a faculty position opened in 2016, Dimitratos jumped at the chance to teach.
“I felt like it allowed me to attract more people to biotechnology and share with students ways to get their hands dirty and get into the laboratory,” he says. “I look at it as training future colleagues.”
Fullerton College’s biotechnology program attracts a wide range of students, from high school students taking courses even before starting college to those in the field who want to expand their skills.
Students are placed in small classes in contrast to the hundreds of students who often attend similar lectures at a 4-year university. The lab equipment is state-of-the-art and the faculty members are all professionals who have worked in research and biotechnology.
To make the program even more practical, it uses a stacked certificate model in which students can earn one certificate and then continue gaining more knowledge and earning more certificates while still working. For example, the certificate for Biotech Lab Assistant requires just four classes, but with just a few more, certificates can be added in Biomanufacturing Technician, Biotech Lab Technician and/or Biological Technician giving students the education they need to move quickly into the industry.
“It’s very specific and gives them the skills they will need in the workplace,” Dimitratos says.
After years in the laboratory, Dimitratos is as excited as ever about science and even more excited about teaching it.
“I’m passionate about science,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunities that science has offered me on a personal level. At Fullerton College, I’m able to show people how science has enriched my life and how it can enrich theirs.”