Every living organism from the smallest and most primitive bacteria, to every insect, animal, human and the oldest trees contain DNA as the primary genetic material. This DNA directs all the cellular processes creating the incredible variety and diversity of living organisms that we see around us in the biosphere. Biotechnology means “life technology” and represents an integrated, multi disciplinary field that focuses on the mechanics of life processes and their application. Today biotechnology has begun to have a profound impact on almost every aspect of human endeavor.
It is becoming increasingly evident that we need to find technologies that are more efficient and gentler on our environment. With increasing frequency industries are turning to biotechnology to solve problems and improve products. As a result, in the last decade biotechnology has developed into a major growth industry. This trend is creating an increasing job market for trained individuals in agriculture, food and beverage industries; health care, chemical, pharmaceutical and biochemical industries; and environmental and bioremediation industries. Furthermore, graduates trained in biotechnology will find their training applicable to advanced research in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, medicine, and the plant and animal sciences.
PROGRAM OF STUDY
In the first two years students will develop a strong and general background in biological sciences with an emphasis on fundamental concepts and basic principles of genetics, molecular biology, cell biology and recombinant DNA technology. Students will do a more in-depth study at the upper division level and will focus on an animal, plant or microbial or bioinformatics option. The options in this major provide training to individuals seeking specialized knowledge in one or more aspects of biotechnology. In addition, the core requirements in each of these options have a strong laboratory component to further reinforce the theoretical concepts.
Students can specialize in four different areas:
Plant Biotechnology–emphasis on the fundamental concepts of plant molecular biology, genetics and cytogenetics. Technologies for giving plants new traits that benefit agricultural production, the environment, and human nutrition and health including gene transfer and genome mapping.
Bioinformatics–emphasis on using computing resources in order to solve biological problems. Areas of application in sequence alignment, gene finding, genome assembly, protein structure alignment, protein structure prediction, prediction of gene expression, protein-protein interactions, and the modeling of evolution.
Fermentation/Microbial Biotechnology–emphasis on microbiology, microbial genetics, environmental microbiology, metabolism, molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology. Microbial processes including industrial fermentation for production of enzymes, antibiotics, vitamins and of wine and beer.
Animal Biotechnology–emphasis on basic concepts in animal molecular biology, genetics, physiology and biochemistry. Recombinant DNA technologies for diagnostics, genome mapping and manipulation.
All students will also be required to do an internship in a biotechnology company, university or government laboratory to further enhance their training and experience.