Biotechnology is a collection of techniques that uses living organisms or substances from those organisms for specific applications. Our ancestors used biotechnology when they first began to breed animals and plants, and to make wine and cheese. Now, major techniques of biotechnology include the manipulation of DNA, immunochemical analysis, and cell culture. These and other technologies are drawn from advances made in recent years in the fields of genetics, immunology, biochemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, and other life sciences.
Science classes are small at Shippensburg University. Laboratories for biology classes normally have only 12 to 16 students per section, and are taught by experienced college professors, not graduate students. Faculty-directed student research is greatly encouraged, and students are able to get direct, hands-on experience with setting up experiments, using sophisticated instrumentation, and analyzing and presenting results.
Students in the biology program at Shippensburg University have the option to concentrate in Biotechnology. Students earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology that will provide them with a broad background in biology, chemistry, and physics. In addition, students in the concentration take a series of courses specifically related to biotechnology. Courses in cell biology, immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and a biotechnology laboratory course are included in this series. Students must also complete either an internship or a faculty-sponsored independent research project.
Careers in biotechnology are available at all levels of education and experience. Individuals with a background and interest in biotechnology can work in a variety of jobs in industrial, government and academic settings. These jobs can be in research, product development, production, quality control, technical writing, sales, education or administration.
Individuals in these positions are involved in solving problems ranging from the medical to the ecological. Some of the many career areas include:
- Medicine: discovering new drugs, creating new vaccines, testing for diseases, gene therapy
- Agriculture: creating biological alternatives to chemical pesticides, developing disease- and insect-resistant plants
- Environment: bio-remediation of wastes, analysis of endangered species populations
- Forensics: detection and analysis of samples at crime scenes
- Food Science: production of food products and dietary supplements, analysis of foods for nutrients, detection of pathogenic organisms
- Animal Science: genetic improvement of livestock, creation of improved treatments for disease
For students interested in forensics, we now offer a pre-forensic science option that provides the educational preparation required for entry into graduate programs in forensic science throughout the country. The coursework defined in this program is in accordance with guidelines established by the American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS). The option consists of a Biology Major/Biotechnology Concentration with appropriate criminal justice courses.
Students at Shippensburg University are frequently involved in research projects under the supervision of a biology faculty member. Students frequently present their research at state and regional scientific conferences. Facilities and equipment used by students for their research include a fluorescence-based DNA sequencer, a chromatography system for purifying and analyzing proteins and nucleic acids, an imaging system for analysis of DNA and protein separations, thermal cyclers for PCR, equipment for electrophoretic analysis of DNA, RNA and proteins, tissue culture facilities, scanning electron microscope, a greenhouse, and an animal care facility.
Student internships are highly recommended. They are available through medical facilities, government laboratories such as NIH, and private industry. Summer internships are usually paid positions. Internships during the school year can be either part-time or volunteer positions.