Joan Taylor started as a dishwasher. Two years later, she is working with genes in hopes of learning how certain cells interact with each other.
In between she got married, had a baby, found a job and will graduate in May from a two-year college.
At age 20, Ms. Taylor makes it look easy. But she is a success story that is all too unusual for a high school graduate with a general interest in the sciences.
Not only are there too few students enticed into the sciences by the time they graduate, there are also too few employees to fill the needs of a small but promising biotechnology industry in Maryland.
Ms. Taylor had several things going for her. "I was interested in science because I had some good science teachers in middle and high school," she said. "And then a teacher told me about this Community College of Baltimore program."
While she took courses in the college's Life Sciences Institute, she got a part-time job washing laboratory dishes at the University of Maryland Center for Marine Biotechnology in Baltimore. That led to an internship and a job as an aide in a laboratory, which she does 20 hours a week while she pursues her bachelor of science degree from University of Maryland Baltimore County.
L Eventually, she expects to be offered a job as a technician.
Although she isn't ruling out the possibility an advanced degree, she said she is satisfied with the pay she will receive as a technician.
"I could see myself being happy with a B.S. and the work I would be doing. . . . I have a daughter. I have to look at life one step at a time."