Help Us Build a Regional Internship Ecosystem (Survey)

A solid academic foundation is crucial, but new grads become professional powerhouses as they do hands-on work.  Internships are often the first professional experiences workers have. These relationships are designed to be mutually beneficial: students gain real-world experience while companies fill important gaps and gain fresh perspectives. 

One of the challenges both students and businesses face is making the right connections. Students can find it hard to know exactly what opportunities are available, while businesses remain in the dark about the tremendous talent available to them.

At RBTC, we’re in the business of making connections. Matching regional companies with top-notch talent is one of our missions, and we’re rolling out an initiative that will do just that.

Building a Regional Internship Ecosystem

RBTC is taking the guesswork out of internships by surveying all intern programs within our membership. The data we collect will allow us to match talent more effectively with need. To build our opportunity map, we’ve created a short survey for companies to report their existing internship programs and get the word out about their available opportunities.

The initiative is spearheaded by RBTC Technology Talent Strategist, Katie Conner: “The survey will allow member companies to gain more visibility for their existing internship programs through strengthened awareness by the top talent coming out of our region’s post-secondary institutions.”

Creating Valuable Connections

The survey pulls triple-duty. First, it will help remove the advertising burden from companies by serving as a prime resource for talent acquisition. Second, students will benefit from having a comprehensive inventory of available opportunities. Lastly, the regional ecosystem will grow now and into the future as we nurture and retain new local talent.

“There are so many opportunities in the region, and they are growing by the day,” Conner said. “The data from this survey is going to strengthen our innovation ecosystem by giving us a robust sense of firsthand experiences that support professional and personal growth and will allow us to capitalize on and retain talent through enhanced strategies.” 

Take the Survey Today

Get the word out about opportunities at your company and connect with bright new talent. The survey is brief — it takes only about 3 minutes to complete. Your contribution is an important part of building valuable connections in the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community.

RBTC Seeks to Form Roanoke-Blacksburg Chapter of Blacks in Technology

Nurturing an innovation ecosystem that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion for all people is a top priority for RBTC and Verge. We recognize that the work is always ongoing. To that end, we’ve formed a committee to enhance the participation of Black individuals in our technology region’s social network. This committee is exploring the region’s technology landscape to find people who are interested in becoming founding members of the Blacks in Technology (BIT) newest chapter in Roanoke.

Blacks in Technology is a national “tech-focused community and media organization that is dedicated to increasing representation and participation of Black people in the technology industry.”

According to the BIT Foundation website:

It is a fairly common occurrence that Black workers in the technology industry find themselves the only Black person in the room or the only Black person on their team. Black people are underrepresented in every technology related career demographic, from tech startup founders seeking venture capital, to core information technology workers seeking pay equity.

Our goal and mission is to “stomp the divide” between Black tech workers and to fundamentally influence and effect change on an industry that has historically not sought parity with respect to Black workers. Our intent is to level the playing field through training, education, networking, and mentorship with the support of allies, partners, sponsors, and most importantly our global members. 

As we organize and gather support, we encourage interested individuals to join the regional  Virginia Blacks in Technology chapter to take advantage of the discounts on technical training, certifications, products, IT services, and exclusive professional networking and social events.

We are actively looking for volunteers and leaders to help build our local chapter. RBTC will be the first sponsor for this chapter, providing support for the initiatives that will serve our community. To register your interest, please fill out the form below and then contact Verge Vice President Lisa Garcia at lisa.garcia@rbtc.tech.

What is a Wet Lab?

With new lab space for biotech coming to the Roanoke and New River Valleys, you may be hearing more about wet and dry lab space. But what’s the difference between the two? Whether you’re new to the terms or are trying to figure out what type of lab space is best for your tech startup, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn about the specifics of wet lab space.

What is a Wet Lab?

A wet lab is a laboratory space designed to test chemicals, biological matter, and drugs. In other words, all experiments in a wet lab deal with liquid substances. Due to the nature of these types of experiments, wet lab equipment and design places a high priority on safety.

These labs require water, direct ventilation in the form of chemical fume hoods, appropriate plumbing, refrigeration, and other specialized equipment like showers, eye washers, fire alarms, and extinguishers. Easy-to-clean countertops, sinks, and benches are also important.

As the names imply, wet labs contrast with dry labs, which are suitable for theoretical or computational work and deal primarily with engineering, robotics, or simulations.

What Types of Research Can you do in a Wet Lab?

Experiments dealing with liquid substances can be done in a wet lab. Biotech startups often make use of wet lab space when exploring ideas and solutions related to life sciences. These could include explorations in pharmaceuticals, organic and physical chemistry, biomedical technologies, cell biology, or molecular biology.

Much of the research conducted in a wet lab includes quantitative chemical analysis via titration and the characterization of enzymes with mass spectrometry.

Using wet lab space for this experimentation is essential because the equipment, design, and processes help reduce the potential risk involved in handling hazardous liquids and allow for testing in a controlled environment.

What are the Advantages of a Wet Lab?

The main advantage of a wet lab is access to a controlled environment. A wet lab’s design and specialized equipment allow scientists to reduce environmental variables that could otherwise skew results.

Additionally, wet labs may also offer opportunities to work with top-of-the-line equipment that makes research run more smoothly. This might include high-end freezers or refrigeration, biosafety cabinets, and other equipment that you may not otherwise have access to.

Learn More

The region’s biotech industry is growing almost daily, from startups to projects that spur from research within the university or medical community. New wet lab spaces will open in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center later this year (with short- and long-term leases available.) Visit their website to learn more.

What is a Dry Lab?

There are exciting developments happening within the technology community. New lab space coming to the region to foster more research and innovation in biotech. With the proposed uptick in jobs (250!) over the course of five years, you might hear the terms “wet labs” and “dry labs” come up more often in conversation. But what’s the difference between the two? We’ve put together a handy primer so you can learn what you need to know about the specifics of dry lab space.

What is a Dry Lab?

A dry lab is a laboratory space designed to accommodate applied or computational mathematics. These spaces are perfect for solving complicated problems via computer-generated models. Scientists might use these models to explore hypotheses regarding molecular changes of state, boundaries of black holes, or cancer growth.

One of the advantages of working in a dry lab is the access it provides to powerful computing equipment. To protect sensitive instruments, a dry lab runs on a clean power system and may be outfitted with systems that control humidity, temperature, and dust. Another advantage is a dry lab’s relative affordability — often access to these spaces comes at low cost.

As the names imply, dry labs contrast with wet labs, which are suitable for dealing with liquid substances and experiments involving chemicals, biological matter, and drugs.

What Types of Research Can You Do in a Dry Lab?

Computational or applied mathematics can be done in a dry lab. Scientists who work in dry labs deal with the theoretical. They might work in dry labs to perform important analyses before moving on to physical testing, or because the scope of the project makes physical testing difficult or impossible, as in the case of studying black holes. For example, a pharmaceutical startup may run models of their hypothesis before working with the chemicals themselves, saving time and money.

Learn More

The region’s technology sector is flourishing! Within the university or medical community there are exciting startups, innovative projects, and fresh research happening almost every day. New dry lab spaces will open in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center later this year (with short- and long-term leases available.) Visit their website to learn more.

Workforce Development: Creating a Vibrant Innovation Ecosystem

A fully mature ecosystem takes time to develop, but that doesn’t stop RBTC from planting seeds of innovation today that will bear fruit in the future. In fact, that’s what RBTC is all about—we’re committed to the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community as it matures into a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem.  

One of the ways RBTC supports this goal is through robust workforce development initiatives. The technology sector is booming, and there are jobs today that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. The rapid growth makes it critical to train current and future tech workers to fill exciting jobs in the region. Supported by legislation and funding aimed at keeping talent in the state, RBTC partners with local and state collaborators to develop amazing local STEM opportunities for businesses, students, new grads, and professionals. So, what are the ways RBTC is helping train a new technology workforce? We’re so glad you asked! Keep reading—you might even find an opportunity that’s right for you.

Virginia Western Community College STEM K-12 Pipeline

Virginia Western Community College is leading the charge to prepare local students for careers in STEM.  The community college recently announced the launch of a new degree program to address the rapid growth of biotechnology jobs in the region. Beginning in the fall of 2023, students can earn a two-year degree in biotechnology. Following the completion of their degree, students can transfer to a four-year degree program or use their job-ready skills for an entry-level laboratory position (many of which pay $24 an hour).
 
Virginia Western isn’t just focused on nurturing post-high school students. This summer, VWCC launched STAT 22, a professional development event for local K12 teachers. STAT 22 helps teachers earn professional development credits by learning about biotechnology and incorporating that knowledge into their STEM curriculum. In turn, K12 students benefit from their knowledge, learning more about biotechnology and potential career opportunities in the field.

Virginia Technology Alliance Creates Big Opportunities

In the U.S., more than 700,000 tech roles remain unfilled due to the enormous gap in the tech talent pipeline.[1] RBTC is working with partners across the state to close the gap—filling roles and creating exciting opportunities for early-career professionals right in their hometown.

If you’re a recent college graduate with a STEM degree, RBTC can help you get connected to jobs across the state without ever leaving the city. We partner with northern VA-based organizations to fill entry-level technology positions remotely. New hires can work from our professional offices, have access to mentorship and community, and enjoy a lower cost of living while building experience in a learning-focused environment.

If you’re not quite ready for a full-time position, we can help you find internships while you finish your degree. We’ve partnered with Exelaration, a software development company with a nationally recognized internship program, to match undergraduate students with local employers in need of talented interns. The program is funded through the ELITE (Experiential Learning Through Tech Employment) grant and helps undergraduates gain real-world experience by working on mission-critical projects for local companies.

Emerging Cluster of Biotech Companies Builds Momentum

The Roanoke-Blacksburg region is quickly becoming the state hub for biotechnology expertise. Companies here find a progress-friendly environment with plenty of talent to grow their missions of delivering practical solutions to pressing problems. A good example of the types of companies that thrive here is Intuitive Surgical — a company focused on advancing minimally invasive care through advanced robotic systems. Headquartered in Blacksburg, Intuitive Surgical continues to innovate and evolve as the horizons of biotechnology expand. Globally connected and locally resourced, Intuitive Surgical works every day to solve hard problems in healthcare.

Companies like Intuitive Surgical continue to develop or locate here thanks to our vibrant, well-resourced community. Our eyes are on the future and we’re doing all we can to ensure that as the biotechnology sector develops, the talent will too.

Learn More

Innovation takes a village. Whether you’re exploring a career in biotechnology, or a company looking to find stellar talent, RBTC has a place for you. Browse our event calendar or check out our memberships to find your tribe with RBTC.

TechLab’s Global Merger Creates More Biotech Jobs for the Region

The Roanoke/Blacksburg biotechnology sector is expanding quickly, thanks in part to an exciting new development at RBTC member, TechLab. This summer, Blacksburg-based TechLab finalized a merger with SSI Diagnostica Group, a leading Nordic biotechnology company aimed at advancing diagnostic technology. The merger, in which SSI Diagnostica acquired TechLab, will fuel local economic growth by putting global partnerships and resources behind TechLab’s research, development, and manufacturing work.
 
TechLab is headquartered in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center with a manufacturing plant in Radford. TechLab specializes in enteric, or intestinal, diagnostics that enable health care providers to identify dangerous pathogens and toxins more efficiently.
 
Thanks to their team, systems, and excellence, SSI Diagnostica identified TechLab as an important contributor to and vital partner in the global diagnostic market. The merger will see TechLab provide manufacturing for SSI Diagnostica’s respiratory diagnostic tools, creating a synergy that allows both companies to widen their impact.
 
With this merger, TechLab will join an international portfolio of companies that help over 80 million patients and counting every year. The Roanoke-Blacksburg region can anticipate adding 20 new jobs in the next year and up to 50 within 3-5 years, including manufacturing, quality control, research and development, and administration.
 
“It’s a very exciting time at TechLab. We’re growing rapidly and the merger is going to increase local opportunities even further,” said Director of HR Allison White.
 
“TechLab has been a valuable part of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community for more than three decades. It’s wonderful to see them commit to future growth here with SSI Diagnostica Group,” said Verge President and RBTC Executive Director Erin Burcham.

techlab building in blacksburg

TechLab was founded in the 1980s when two Virginia Tech researchers developed the first commercial diagnostic tests for C. difficile disease. Since then, TechLab has expanded its operation to include other enteric pathogens and distributes products worldwide. In 2004, the world faced a serious outbreak of C. difficile with mortality rates as high as 20%. TechLab was on the frontlines, furnishing health care providers with expertise and rapid testing technology. Now, TechLab’s C. DIFFICILE QUIK CHEK COMPLETE test is the top diagnostic tool for hospitals around the world.
 
While TechLab has a worldwide reach, they maintain a solidly community-driven ethos that contributes to their success. A homegrown company, TechLab is deeply invested in the health and well-being of their communities both locally and throughout the state—something they anticipate will only strengthen in the future.
 
From leadership to manufacturing, TechLab has formed partnerships in regional economic development, Virginia biotech leadership, and local nonprofits. You might find TechLab’s senior scientists speaking to students in science courses at Virginia Tech and Radford University, and you’ll find new grads on the employee roster.
 
“It’s a wonderful place to work,” said Director of Marketing Jodie Lee. “We’re very integrated into the community and the company strives to care for its employees.”
 
Like many industries, the diagnostics world was hit hard during the pandemic and TechLab sprang into action on behalf of their team. They provided time off and preserved jobs, even throughout the worst of the crisis. Leadership turned their problem-solving skills to supply chain issues, using their manufacturing plant to make hand sanitizer and masks for employees and even sourcing toilet paper for workers when there was none to be found anywhere else.
 
White said: “We have a family feel because we stay true to the core of who we are.” As a testament to their commitment, many employees choose to stay in the region to launch and grow their biotechnology careers, investing years and even decades in TechLab.

RBTC Rolls Out New Membership Benefits

With a rapidly growing innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, RBTC is rolling out new and enhanced member benefits with all new memberships and renewals.

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, part of the Verge alliance, includes more than 100 member companies across 15+ industries with a mission to support and promote the growth of the regional technology community. The shared vision of RBTC, RAMP, and the Verge alliance is for the Roanoke and New River Valleys to be globally recognized for innovation, entrepreneurship, and talent assets.

Almost any company or individual can find a membership level that’s right for them, that supports the growth of the innovation economy in the region, and provides access to a network of thought leaders and industry professionals.

Membership levels include:

  • Individual Membership
  • Technology Company Membership, 1-20 employees
  • Technology Company Membership, 21+ employees
  • Ecosystem Partner Membership (for non-technology companies), 1-49 employees
  • Ecosystem Partner Membership (for non-technology companies), 50+ employees
  • Plus, three annual partner options with enhanced benefits, including recognition at events, TechNite tickets, and custom digital marketing benefits

As an RBTC member company, all of your employees get access to all of the benefits listed below.

  • Member Pricing for all RBTC Events (40+ annually)
  • Member Directory Listing (coming soon)
  • Job Board Access 
  • Internship, Talent, and Leadership Development Program Access
  • Group Forums
  • Connection with Regional Leaders & Access to Subject Matter Experts
  • Tech Leaders Newsletter
  • Regional Technology Peer Advisory Groups
  • Volunteer & Networking Opportunities
  • Sponsorship Opportunities

RBTC is part of the Verge alliance, which provides advocacy, programming, talent attraction/development, and connectivity to elevate the greater technology and biotechnology sectors in GO Virginia’s Region 2.

Additionally, RBTC, RAMP, and Verge are working to create more resources for the technology community that you are already a part of. The RBTC hired a technology talent strategist to support member companies in attracting and retaining talent and is advocating on the state level for increased funding for tech and biotech. The RBTC is also instrumental in the Roanoke Biotech Project, which will bring wet and dry labs, an innovation studio, and enhanced innovation programming to the region.

If you are interested in membership or an annual partnership, you can see all of the options here.

RBTC Creates Technology Talent Strategist Role to Support Member Growth

We are delighted to introduce Technology Talent Strategist Katie Conner as the newest member of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council team.
 
Katie joined the team this month in the newly developed role, and we are excited by all the energy, experience, and skill she brings to the position! In her capacity as talent strategist, she will work to support member companies in attracting and retaining talent to fuel the innovation ecosystem in the region. Her efforts will go hand-in-hand with RBTC’s state-level advocacy to increase funding for tech and biotech.
 
“Talent is a major focus area for RBTC member companies as they grow in this area and look to recruit employees,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC. “We’re thrilled to have someone on our team dedicated to helping with talent needs in the regional innovation ecosystem.”
 
“I look forward to getting to know RBTC member companies and teams and facilitate growth throughout the region,” Katie said.
 
Prior to joining RBTC, Katie served as a destination development specialist in the partnership marketing division of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. During her tenure, she collaborated with statewide partners to generate revenue and create jobs through the development of community-based tourism programs, new products, and tourism-related businesses.
 
She was responsible for supporting and advising strategic tourism planning efforts, technical assistance, product development, and cooperative marketing to each community in her region, as well as connecting tourism industry stakeholders with VTC services. She looks forward to implementing this skillset at RBTC.
 
Katie has a Bachelor of Science degree in communication with a concentration in public relations from Radford University and is currently pursuing her master’s in business administration at Longwood University. Katie is a Leadership Roanoke Valley alumna and has also served in an advisory capacity.
 
With over 15 years of combined experience, her unique background includes hospitality sales and management, financial account management, event planning, and marketing and public relations. Katie resides in Botetourt County and in her spare time enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs.

Spotlight on Kathleen O’Dell, STEM-H Educator Award Winner

During TechNite 2022, Kathleen O’Dell was recognized as an educator in the Roanoke–Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders. O’Dell became a math teacher at Christiansburg Middle School 15 years ago through a non-traditional route, incorporated real-world experiences into her curriculum, and realized teaching was the dream job she was looking for all along. O’Dell is the recipient of the 2022 Montgomery County Public School Teacher of the Year award, serves as Department Chair of the CMS Math Department, and worked as tutor and a curriculum specialist for the Boys and Girls Club from 2016 to 2021. In May, she received the STEM-H Educator Award in honor of her many achievements in STEM education.

Where is your Alma Mater and what did you study?

I attended Rutgers University and earned a BA in psychology with a specialization in child development. Following that, I earned an MA in Curriculum and Instruction with a K-8 Mat specialist endorsement from Virginia Tech.

What does it mean to you to win the STEM-H Educator Award from the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council?

I know that there are many very talented educators in the area, so to even be considered for the recognition as a STEM educator is an honor.  I am very appreciative of the award and am so thankful for STEM education to have a spotlight, because it is so important for students to have these opportunities to explore and learn.

You’re known and loved for your passion and commitment as well as the way you incorporate real-word experiences into your curriculum – supporting different types of learners.  What’s an example of this? 

My passion is helping students find the excitement and joy of learning.  Incorporating real-world experiences helps kids see the value of the things we do in school and giving them opportunities to incorporate their own ideas helps them feel ownership in the learning.  Students have taught me so many things and opened my eyes to how learning can look different and still be correct.  My motto is, “Math is never meant to stay in the classroom”.  I reward students who use the math we learn in class and apply it in real life situations and encourage them to find math in their everyday lives. 

Who is your inspiration/What inspires you most as an educator?

My father has always been my hero.  From an early age, he always showed me that learning was fun, and helped me become a critical thinker.  He was not a teacher in a classroom, but he has always been my favorite teacher and the one who has taught me the most.

Tell us a fun fact about you! 

My family is the most important thing in my life. I am married (30 years) and have 2 married daughters, one granddaughter and a grandchild on the way. I didn’t start teaching until my mid-thirties, and my family has always been my biggest supporter.  

You’re so passionate about STEM education that you’ve called it your “dream career.” What else can you tell us about your highly impactful career in STEM education? My career has allowed me opportunities to be recognized for some prestigious awards, including this Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council STEM-H award, as well as the PAEMST Award (Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching), Montgomery County and Christiansburg Middle School Teacher of the Year. But, if you were to ask me about accomplishments for which I am most proud, I would have to say that I am thankful to have helped students transition into young adults who are prepared for their futures, and who left my classroom knowing more about math and learning than they knew before they entered.  

Congratulations Kathy on your well-deserved award! We’re proud to recognize your hard work and important contributions to STEM and the innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.

RAMP and RBTC are part of the Verge alliance, established to grow the region’s innovation economy, technology and life sciences sectors, and the supporting professional communities. It aligns the strengths and programming efforts of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) and the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP). Verge serves GO Virginia Region 2 and works to form collaborations with government, business, academia, and other organizations to advance the region and grow a thriving innovation economy.

RAMP Welcomes New Cohort

Five new startups are part of the latest RAMP cohort. Each company is part of a 12-week program to help them grow their startup companies in the Roanoke Region with access to mentors, capital, and business resources.

Here’s a look at each company:

Fermi Energy, Inc.

Founded by a team of battery scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech, Fermi Energy is developing fundamentally disruptive cathode technologies to help create the U.S. supply chain of battery manufacturing. 

Team: Feng Lin & Zhengrui Xu

Website: fermienergy.org

Dot Solutions, LLC

Dot Solutions LLC, aka Dot Drives, is an internet-based donor engagement software application that was specifically designed for a startup to mid-sized nonprofit. 

Team: Sal Ferlise & Emily Sweet

Website: dotdrives.com

Enabled Engineering

Based in Blacksburg, Enabled Engineering develops innovative manufacturing technologies for extreme applications, such as fabricating materials in nuclear reactors and enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity materials. 

Team: Kumar Kandasamy

Website: enabledengineering.com

Qentoros

Qentoros is developing a biologic therapeutic to treat a variety of infectious and/or inflammatory conditions in animals and humans. The biologic is based on blood products and has demonstrated efficacy in treating a number of veterinary patient conditions that did not improve with normal antibiotic treatment.

Team: Michael Miller & Jessica Gilbertie

Website: qentoros.com

Kenkashi Microbes

Kenkashi Microbes delivers a full range of microbial benefits, from compost boosts to direct microbial and micronutrient application for plant health and resiliency.

Team: Cassie Wilson & Jason Anderson

Website: kenkashi.com

Every member of a Ramp cohort has access to a program that includes:

  • 1:1 expert mentoring as well as access to content mentors covering the world of business knowledge
  • Free office space with hi-speed internet access
  • Access to angel and VC investors through our Demo Day presentations
  • $20,000 in equity-free funding
  • Free membership in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council
  • Three additional years of ongoing support

Learn more about RAMP.