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Western Kentucky University

WKU-O Undergraduate Programs

BIOLOGY (with emphasis in Biotechnology)

Did you ever wonder about the science involved in making bread and wine? Did you know that we can design plants that do not need pesticides and if insects bite into these plants, they will simply drop down dead? How about creating an object the size of a business card that contains all your genes or the information to make YOU and you could carry it in your wallet? Or designer plants that make vaccines and medicines that cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes? When you heard of terms such as GMOs, Human Genome Project, Franken foods, DNA fingerprinting, DNA detectives, did you want to know what they actually meant?

If so, the program of B.S. (Investigative biotechnology) will be the ideal platform that will open a window of opportunity in realizing your ambitions to be a part of the scientific discipline called BIOTECHNOLOGY in research, industrial and government settings.

So what will you learn in this program?

Biology is the study of life (Latin word: “Bios” = Life and “logos” = study of). And, what is Biotechnology? When we use life or living forms and cells (“Bio” = life) to create a technology to benefit mankind, it is termed biotechnology. Going back to the example of making bread, we use a fungus called yeast (the life form) and mix it in dough (a plant product) to make bread (better food) through a simple chemical reaction (chemistry) in an oven (an instrument created by engineers through principles of physics and mathematics). As a unique scientific discipline, you can see from this example that biotechnology is a combination of basic biology or life sciences with applied technical aspects of basic physics, analytical chemistry, simple mathematics and computer science as related to life forms.

In the program at WKU-O, you will begin your curricula learning about the basic aspects of biology, biochemistry and biophysics, and then trace your academic journey through advanced courses such as genetics, recombinant DNA technology, molecular biology, plant biotechnology, biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology and bioinformatics. In addition to lecture classes, you will be exposed to laboratory sessions that would enhance your knowledge and sharpen your skills involving cutting edge research related to recombinant DNA research, computational biology, plant cell and tissue culture, and plant genetic engineering (see below for opportunities in a biotechnology “research incubator”).

What skills do I need for this program?

To be successful in this major, you need to have a strong interest in understanding the science behind why things work as they do, a keen sense of curiosity about the laws of nature, and a tendency to ask questions and seek answers about the mechanics of life. You should:

  • enjoy learning science and be skilled in basic sciences and simple math
  • be logical and organized
  • have a strong imagination with good observational skills
  • be creative in problem solving
  • have good oral and written communication skills
  • be able to use a computer

What are the research opportunities within this program?

Research opportunities during summer semesters or an internship during the school year will improve your chances for finding employment after graduation. You will have an opportunity to interact with the esteemed faculty at the Western Kentucky University’s Biology Department at the main campus of Bowling Green that houses the Biotechnology center, Bio-informatics center and the Biodiversity center.

The opportunity to be exposed to cutting-edge biotechnology research presents itself at the Owensboro Centre for Business and Research that is a colloquium of various life science research labs and biotechnology companies in the form of a research incubator. All the laboratory sessions of the WKU-O biotechnology program will be held in the WKU-O plant biology research lab located in the research incubator and students will have direct access to modern research labs and have continued interactions with the research and business leaders within the research incubator.

The research incubator is part of an ambitious partnership of the Emerging Ventures Life Sciences research opportunity (http://www.emergingventures.org/) by the Greater Owensboro Economic and Development Council (GOEDC). The venture is the result of the transformation of an 86-year-old former tobacco warehouse at 1016 Allen St. into the high-tech Centre for Business and Research that is on track to be completed by the summer of 2011. The 37,000-square-foot brick warehouse is currently being renovated for modern offices and 8,000 square feet of research lab space. Plans call for the Centre for Business and Research to include research space for biotech companies. The center is designed to have lab space for clients such as the Kentucky Bio-processing Company who specialize in utilizing tobacco plants as Biofactories to produce vaccines for curing cancer. WKU-O houses its lab and research facility for the Biotechnology program in this building and works very closely with local biotech companies and the city of Owensboro. At present, Dr. Chandra Emani, Assistant Professor of the WKU-O biotechnology program who is running the research lab has started a research project on utilizing sorghum plants for bio-fuel production with funding from the WKU Office of Research’s Research and Creative Program (RCAP). Mr. Joey Guinto, a student currently enrolled in the biotechnology program, is already working with Dr. Emani as an undergraduate researcher.

What kind of research platforms and settings does the course provide?

  • Plant Genetic Engineering to design plants as bio-factories that produce vaccines and biofuels
  • Understand the role of improved foods and plant-based medicines
  • Try to solve problems and improve LIFE based on what was learned in the classroom
  • Working as an independent researcher or part of a team interacting with biotech researchers
  • Develop an understanding of the ever-growing biotechnology industries

What are the career and academic opportunities that result from this major?

Biotechnology is a rapidly growing commercial and academic field, and at present United States is the world leader in research, development and commercialization of biotech products. The GOEDC life science venture at Owensboro seeks to exploit the rapid growth of the biotech industry and WKU-O is a proud partner in training students to seek employment in the industrial sector and also direct students to higher research studies in the field of molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology. At an average salary of $50,000/year in Kentucky, several entry-level and advanced positions that are available for students majoring in the field are:

  • Research and Development: Lab assistant, Technician, Research Associate, Research assistant, Greenhouse Assistant, Plant Transformation Specialist, Plant Molecular Biologist
  • Quality Control: Quality control analyst, Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, Quality Assurance Auditor, Validation Technician
  • Clinical Research: Clinical coordinator, Bio-statistician, Clinical data Specialist, Drug Experience Coordinator, Clinical Research Associate, Technical Writer
  • Manufacturing and Production: Product Planner Scheduler, Manufacturing Technician, Packaging Operator, Manufacturing Research Associate, Instrument Calibration Technician, Process Development Associate, Assay Analyst
  • Regulatory Affairs: Documentation Coordinator, Documentation Specialist
  • Information Systems: Bio-informaticist, Scientific Programmer Analyst, Science Library Assistant, Marketing and Sales, Market Research Analyst, Systems Analyst, Sales Representative, Customer Service Representative, Technical Service Representative
  • Administration: Technical Recruiter, Human Resources Representative, Patent Agent

Average Salary: $50,000/year in Kentucky

Sequencing:

Because of transferring credits and WKU-O course offerings, the length of time to finish this program differs for each student. It is important to meet with a WKU-O advisor as soon as possible. Bring an unofficial copy of transcripts from all previously attended colleges and/or universities. It is also important to determine your availability to take courses: part-time, full-time, summer term.

WKU-O Academic Requirements:

  • 120 college-level undergraduate semester hours including the following:

- 44 semester hours of General Education

- 42 semester hours of upper-division credit (300-400 level courses)

- 30 hours must be earned in residence (at WKU), at least 16 of which must be completed after the semester in which the student earned a cumulative total of at least 90 hours.

  • Students must earn a minimum of 54 semester hours with WKU to graduate with honors.
  • Students must apply for graduation upon the completion of 90 semester hours.
  • Students are to meet with an advisor each semester.

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 Last Modified 9/24/14