August 11, 2021

Artist Heather Hultgren was looking for a new intellectual challenge in her life when she discovered Century College’s Biofabrication Technologist Certificate program. 

Having raised her children, and having spent much of her career in the field of congregational ministry in one form or another, Heather was ready for a change.  She holds a B.S. in Biology and a Master’s in Youth and Family Ministry, and she was intrigued by the science and technology involved in the field of biofabrication.

Because her son had been a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student at Century College, she knew that the College offered an excellent education.  She soon enrolled at Century.

“My experience is different from traditional students.  I’m in a different place, but I thought, I’m just going to go for it,” Heather remembers. “What Century College offers with this certificate program is quite unique. You’re not looking at 2-4 years in graduate school; rather, you’re getting a hands-on education in a cutting-edge technical field.”

Pioneering Work Involving a Unique Collaboration 

In the spring and summer of 2021, Heather worked on a special 10-week internship with Dr. Timothy Lyden at the University of Wisconsin in River Falls.  A new collaboration between Century College and UWRF provided Century College Biofabrication students the opportunity to assist Dr. Lyden with his cancer research.

“The internship has been great,” Heather says. “As an undergrad, I had worked for a year on a research project involving cell biology, but this internship experience was brand new.  Dr. Lyden taught us lab procedures and scientific protocols.  We learned how to keep things from getting contaminated, about cell culture, how to divide growing cells, and we also learned techniques to do this in a clean, sterile way.” 

Back at Century College, the Biofabrication students (working in the internship) learned to create designs using 3D printers, which could then be used in the laboratory in River Falls.  They learned techniques in bioprinting artificial tissues. Heather and fellow Century College student Nadina Beethe enjoyed their work so much, they both stayed on after the internship ended and worked with Dr. Lyden for several more weeks.

“Dr. Lyden also gave us literature involving the study of cancer cells in a 3D environment,” Heather says. “Basically, we learned to understand and observe how cancer cells react and communicate with other cells.

“We learned about types of cell malignancies, and what that means in the body–and you study this at a deep level. This raises good questions to further delve into-–there’s a lot out there to think about. It’s complex, and this research is something that I find fascinating, and I would like to move in that direction. 

“It’s been great to try something new, and to open my mind to new technologies, new ideas, and new experiences.”

Advice for Future Students

Heather offers this advice for those who are considering applying for Century College’s Biofabrication program: “If it intrigues you, go for it. It’s opened up a whole new world to me.  Talk with (faculty members) Randy Jasken, Daniel Sorby, and get ideas, ask questions. Century’s faculty and staff are both helpful and flexible.

“They know this field. I’ve learned so much from Randy, the “FabLab” guys, and my fellow students. It’s been great! So, give it a shot, and jump in with both feet.  I recommend this program, and Century College.  I feel good about my experiences.”

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