Biotechnology Program at UH Aided by $80,000 in Grants

Funds pay for new DNA Sequencer, Help in Hosting Workshops For High School Students

The University of Houston's Center for Life Sciences Technology (CLiST) recently received a boost to its efforts in preparing the biotechnology professionals of tomorrow.

The center recently received grants from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and biotechnology company LI-COR Biosciences that will help provide resources necessary to teach biotechnology principles to current and future UH students.

Thanks to LI-COR's Genomics Education Matching Funds program, CLiST received $52,000 to apply to the purchase of a DNA sequencer. The sequencer will be used in laboratory curriculum and research, as well as to engage students in the inter-disciplinary nature of the biotech industry.

"As modern research becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, there is a strong impetus to integrate modern genomics and bioinformatics into new courses. Such integration prepares our undergraduates to conduct research in a highly interdisciplinary environment," said Rupa Iyer, director of CLiST and UH's biotechnology programs

In addition to preparing undergraduates for biotechnology careers, CLiST also is helping inspire high school students to pursue degrees in this evolving industry. The TWC presented the center with $30,000 to host future summer workshops aimed at introducing high schoolers to biotechnology. These funds are part of the Texas Governor's Summer Merit Program, which provides funding for summer youth camps focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

"Texas will sustain its economic leadership by preparing today's students for the workforce requirements of tomorrow," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "Growth industries of the future will depend on foundations in math, science and technology."

Biotechnology is the application of technology using biological systems to develop products or provide solutions for industries such as medicine and agriculture. Its most recognized applications are in the development of drugs such as those used in treating cancer and heart disease. It is also employed in food science and nanotechnology.

The U.S. Department of Labor cited biotechnology as a high-growth industry and identified its three primary workforce issues as recruitment, training and education. In 2002, Perry established the Governor's Council on Science and Biotechnology Development, describing the industry as "the wave of the future when it comes to health care."

As part of UH's College of Technology, CLiST is developing undergraduate curriculum for a prospective bachelor's program in biotechnology that is being reviewed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. It is expected to receive final confirmation this fall.

The biotechnology courses already available at UH include Biotechnology Regulatory Environment (BTEC 2320), which examines the role of governmental oversight and regulation during the discovery, development and manufacture of new biotechnology products; Good Manufacturing Processes (BTEC 2321), a hybrid class focusing on the manufacturing practices of the biomedical, pharmaceutical, food and medical device industries; BTEC 3301, which provides an overview of the field of genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics and their application in prediction of structure and function; and Instrumentation and Measurement (BTEC 3100), offering hands-on experience on molecular biology and genetics techniques and instrumentation used in the biotechnology laboratories.

In 2006, the Texas Workforce Commission provided CLiST with a $1 million grant to aid its development of an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in biotechnology, short-term training programs aimed at industry professionals and high school teacher training workshops. In the same year, the National Science Foundation awarded $121,800 to CLiST to develop an interdisciplinary research based laboratory curriculum based on a pesticide degrading soil bacterium.. The new curriculum is being integrated into two undergraduate biotechnology lab classes that were developed by Iyer in collaboration with Melinda Wales, Texas A&M senior scientist and chief scientific officer of Reactive Services, an Austin-based biotechnology company.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the College of Technology
The College of Technology educates leaders in innovation and global industry. With nearly 2,000 students, the college offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in construction management technology, consumer science and merchandising, computer engineering technology, electrical power technology, logistics technology, network communications, human resources development and technology project management. It also offers specialized programs in biotechnology, surveying and mapping and digital media.

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