Training the Next Generation of Bermudian Scientists

Stephen Lightbourne, a 2009 graduate of the BIOS Bermuda Program, works as a physiotherapist at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Bermuda Program alumnae have gone on to major in a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in university, and many work in healthcare fields after graduation.

Among the many lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the value of having a highly skilled scientific workforce that is capable of leveraging its education to serve the broader community during a time of need.

“BIOS is pleased to serve Bermuda’s young people by offering hands-on educational opportunities in the sciences through the Bermuda Program,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of education and community engagement at BIOS. “We’re committed to training the next generation of scientists.” 

Since 1976, the Bermuda Program has been providing Bermudian students, aged 18 and older, with the unique opportunity to receive paid fellowships that allow them to work alongside BIOS scientists in field and laboratory settings. Over the course of the program’s lifetime, more than 150 young Bermudians have taken part in this program, with many applying their research toward further university studies.

These full-time internships, which run for four or eight weeks during the summer, provide participants with hands on training in marine and atmospheric sciences, as well as the opportunity to learn valuable skills—such as critical thinking, data analysis, and communication—that are transferrable to a wide range of career paths.

Bermuda Program alumnae have gone on to major in a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in university, including anatomy, atmospheric science, biology, biomedical engineering, cell biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, environmental science, marine ecology, medicine, meteorology, oceanography, and veterinary medicine.

You might be surprised to know that many Bermuda Program graduates are familiar faces around the island. Dr. Robbie Smith, Curator of the Natural History Museum at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo is a Bermuda Program graduate. So are Joanna Pitt (Marine Resource Officer) and Tammy Trott (Senior Marine Resource Officer), both with the Bermuda Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Dr. Mark Guishard, Director of the Bermuda Weather Service, and a BIOS adjunct faculty member, is also a Bermuda Program graduate.

Robbie Smith BAMZ

Robbie Smith, curator of the Natural History Museum at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo, is also a Bermuda Program graduate. Smith is a BIOS adjunct faculty member and serves as a mentor for BIOS Bermuda Program interns, passing along his experience and inspiring the next generation of ocean scientists.

“I am very appreciative for the mentorship I received in the Bermuda Program,” Guishard said. “The exposure to research at that stage in my studies was of great benefit and inspired me to work in a scientific profession. I am privileged and honored to continue mentoring Bermuda Program interns whenever I can, many of whom have moved onto their own careers in science.”

Many Bermuda Program alumnae also serve in healthcare or health-adjacent fields on the island. David Kendall, Director of the Bermuda Department of Health is a Bermuda Program graduate, as is Dr. Michael Ashton, Chief of Medicine for the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Jecar Chapman works as a laboratory technician in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and Stephen Lightbourne—another Bermuda Program graduate—works as a physiotherapist in the hospital’s outpatient department.

“My five years in the Bermuda Program served as a stepping stone for my current job as a medical laboratory technician,” Chapman said. “My internships at BIOS were my first experiences working in a laboratory, which I really enjoyed, and I discovered that working in this setting was my true passion.”

“During my time in the Bermuda Program, one of my most memorable experiences was learning how to run polymerase chain reactions (PCR), which may be more familiar now as it is a common method of COVID-19 testing,” Lightbourne said. “My time at BIOS exposed me to higher learning and the broader impact of scientific research. Although I ended up in the medical field as a physiotherapist, research is still the main driver behind my practice as we strive to provide evidence-based care, education, and treatment. BIOS has paved the way for local scientific research on interactions between humans and the environment, which provides our leaders and the public with the knowledge they need to make better informed decisions to protect the future of the island home that we have been blessed with.”

For more information on the BIOS Bermuda Program, please visit http://www.bios.edu/education/bermuda-program