UH Given Grant to Design Biotech Degree

Biotechnology is becoming a high growth industry and consequently there is a need for trained professionals in the field. To meet that need the Texas Workforce Commission has given the University of Houston a million dollar grant to design an undergraduate degree program in biotechnology. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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The Texas Workforce Commission says simply put this type of program doesn't exist. The Commission's Larry Jones says the goal is simple.

"Basically the product we're looking for from the University of Houston is a biotechnology curriculum that will allow us to provide training programs to train future biotechnologists."

To that end research associate professor Rupa Iyer is designing the program's curriculum. She says two of the laboratory courses she is developing are in conjunction with Reactive Services a biotechnology company in Austin.

"And it takes students right from the process of scientific discovery to its applications in biotechnology. So the students go through the process of guided scientific discovery and they see it's applications in the real world. So it integrates bioprocessing, nanobiotechnology, biosecurity, all these new and emerging concepts in biotechnology."

Dr. Iyer says graduates will be prepared to go directly into the biotech industry, or the Texas Medical Center, or get advanced degrees in the field. Biotechology has been around for many decades in medicine and agriculture but among the emerging fields is environmental biotechnology.

"And with all the interest in alternatives fuels and biosecurity, it is really the right timing to start a program in biotechnology. We will be the first in Texas to offer a lab curriculum that has an emphasis in environmental biotechnology.

Professor Iyer says in addition to the degree program there will be short courses for those in the field or those who want to learn more about it.

"These short courses will be developed in collaboration with our industry partners. These actually will provide a strong linkage with industry, and ongoing means of communication as to what is happening in the biotech industry. We infuse that into the short courses and prepare the incumbent workers for these new technologies."

If the degree program is accepted by the UH System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the first students will accepted in the fall of 2007.

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