The undergraduate major in Biotechnology is a four-year program that culminates in students receiving a Bachelor of Sciences Degree (BSc). In the first two years, students develop a strong and general background in the biological sciences with an emphasis on the basic principles of genetics, molecular biology, cell biology and recombinant DNA. All biotechnology students take a core introductory course that examines the use of biotechnology in health care, agriculture, environmental bioremediation and energy production as well as an ethics course that examines the social and legal ramifications of biotechnical advances.
In their third and fourth year, students focus their studies into one of four general areas for more in depth studies.
The numbers of microbes alive today far exceeds the number of plants and animals that ever existed and we are becoming increasingly aware of the critical role these play in human health, plant productivity and toxin degradation. Since the dawn of civilization bacteria have played critical roles in food, wine and beer production; more recently microbes are central to the industrial manufacture of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, detergents, and a slew of other consumer products. The vast diversity of microbes provides novel metabolism systems that are currently being examined as a way to generate novel energy resources, and clean up the environment after their consumption.
The world population recently reached 7 billion with an additional billion expected in the next ten or fifteen years. Technological advances in agriculture will clearly be necessary to feed and clothe the increasing population; biologically based solutions that do not rely on synthetic chemical inputs are particularly needed. Plant biotechnology uses genomic technologies to rapidly advance plant breeding programs as well as transgenic technologies to develop novel desirable traits. Optimizing the growth of plants engineered for clean biofuel production is another goal of plant biotechnology.
Animals are used by humans as pets, for research and as food. Animal biotechnology provides technologies to assist in each of these areas. Genomic discoveries are uncovering fascinating details about the origins of dogs, cats and other domesticated pets. The genetics of farm animals are being optimized by advanced breeding methods together with gene transfer technologies, resulting in healthier animals and more nutritious foods.
Bioinformatics is the application of computer technology to the management of biological information. Unprecedented amounts of biological data are being accumulated in massive databases, and specialized computational skills are necessary to mine and make sense of this data deluge. Students in bioinformatics take classes in both biology and computer science and graduate with a set of skills necessary to successfully participate and lead this fast moving field.
BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAM GOAL
Students who graduate from the Biotechnology major will be critical thinkers who are able to successfully translate modern biological knowledge into useful products for the betterment of society.
BIOTECHNOLOGY MAJOR LEARNING OUTCOMES
- Graduates will understand the fundamental principles of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, gene manipulation, gene transfer, and bioinformatics
- Graduates will understand how biotechnology is used to make pharmaceuticals, improve agriculture, develop novel biofuels, and clean up the environment
- Graduates will be able to effectively work in a laboratory setting focused on biotechnological research
- Graduates will be able to identify, analyze and communicate ethical and sociological issues associated with biotechnological advances