Biology is the touchpoint to answering some of the biggest questions facing society, from healthcare to agriculture. Transforming those insights and discoveries into solutions is the domain of the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology.
“Biotechnology is the gateway to engineering, application and commercialization of biology,” says Jeff Gralnick, professor of Plant and Microbial Biology. “Our foundational knowledge of living systems has driven development of a range of tools and approaches to engineer biological systems.”
In an effort to better train undergraduates in these areas, the College of Biological Sciences recently launched a biotechnology minor for students at the University of Minnesota. Gralnick and Mikael Elias, professor in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, will lead the minor as co-directors of undergraduate studies.
“This minor encourages students to take a number of classes outside of CBS that will help them build expertise in not only important areas of applied science, but also in communication, entrepreneurship and project management,” Gralnick says.
In addition to coursework, students who pursue this new minor will gain critical experience through a capstone project, either in directed research or in an industrial setting.
“Students who complete this minor will receive exposure and training in extended skill areas important for professional development, giving significant added value alongside the deep biological expertise that our majors offer,” says Laurie Parker, associate dean for undergraduate education in CBS.
Through these courses and experiences, the college sees an opportunity to help hone the skills and capabilities of students looking to answer some of these big questions, from combating climate change to feeding growing global populations.
“The applications of biotechnology extend beyond borders,” says Elias. “With its potential to address global challenges like food security, disease prevention, and environmental sustainability, a biotechnology minor can empower you to make a positive impact on a global scale.”