ABERDEEN, S.D. – Students at Northern State University have new options
this fall with an associate of science degree in biotechnology and a certificate in biotechnology.
“We thought the biotech area would really enhance our department and enhance the economic development of the state as well,” said Dr. Jodie Ramsay, NSU’s chair of the department of Biology, Chemistry & Physics, and Mathematics.
Core courses for the Associate’s degree include Introduction to Biotechnology, Introduction to Bioinformatics and Proteomics, Biotechnology Lab Methods and Techniques, and Cell Culture Techniques. Students can complete the degree in two years or obtain a certificate by taking those four courses over as few as two semesters.
“Someone with a four-year degree might even want more specialized training to
do the certificate, and we just felt it would really be a good addition to provide more job opportunities for students in the region,” Ramsay said.
The biotechnology curriculum combines the fields of genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, and cell biology and links them to applications in such fields as chemical engineering, information technology, and bio-robotics.
The program is led by industry veteran Dr. Jon Mitchell, who came to NSU in 2010.
“Dr. Mitchell is very well-liked by students and brings a lot of practical knowledge to the field,” said Ramsay, who added that Mitchell is exploring internship opportunities for students. An internship is required to receive a degree in biotechnology.
“He has made contacts with companies like Monsanto and Glacial Lakes Energy and even some businesses out of the state, if students are willing to travel,” she added.
Plans for the program's future include a greenhouse and additional grant funds, Ramsay said.
Northern belongs to the South Dakota Biotech Association which, Ramsay said, provides a mechanism for NSU to network with businesses in the biotech industry in the state and region - businesses that may someday serve as internship sites for Northern's biotech students.
“It’s definitely worthwhile,” Ramsay said. “Many other universities are involved in the association, and with the addition of this program, Northern can definitely be a player in that area.”
Last year's initial offerings in biotechnology at Northern were filled, Ramsay said, and she expects the degree program to be popular as well.
“We have interest even from international students in taking these courses, particularly those from South Korea and China” she said. “And we’re looking forward to having more students enroll. We’re excited about this program!”