By M. Jordan Smith
Biotechnology conjures a futuristic, science-fiction image of laboratory workers in white coats, but biotechnology encompasses a much broader spectrum. Its roots can be traced back hundreds of years and its fingers dip into copious fields ranging from agriculture (Green Biotech) to medicine and healthcare (Red Biotech) to aquaculture (Blue Biotech), bioterrorism (Black Biotech) and the aforementioned laboratory research (White Biotech). Because of its expansive nature, Biotechnology is a leading player in every industry and as such, those trained in Biotechnology will find the job market as diverse and rewarding as their studies.
Since Biotechnology is applicable in so many fields students can expect to learn from a broad range of categories including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and physiology. Students will take classes in biology to learn the anatomy and physiology of organisms and how those organisms function and adapt to their environment. Chemistry will guide students through the periodic table of elements and instruct on the basic building blocks of molecules to facilitate understanding of larger reactions like those of chemotherapy drugs in battling cancers. Study in physics will reveal how biotechnologists have created wondrous instruments from the microscope to MRIs. Integral to this field is hands-on experience; this will be achieved in a laboratory session for many classes in the above fields. Students will directly translate the knowledge they learn in the classroom to practical uses and experiences to prepare them for a career. Upon graduation a student can expect to understand how all of the relevant sciences fit together to form the mosaic that is biotechnology and be prepared to enter any realm of biotechnology.
Contemporary issues in Biotechnology are concerned with study, application, and adaptation of living systems for their beneficial uses. However, this main theme has been prevalent throughout the history of man. “The earliest period (of agriculture) 11,000BCE-8,300BCE has been described as the ‘agrotechnical phase,’ with finds of sickle blades, pestles, mortars, and storage pits, as well as some permanent settlements…developed to exploit wild crop plants.”(Hybrid, 18) Usage of these tools constitutes the first application of technology to living systems; it is our first evidence of biotechnology. With the advancements in technology, today the process of producing the best crops begins in the lab of a Biotechnologist. There is evidence of similar processes throughout history: the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, the development of vaccines by Edward Jenner in the 18th century followed by the invention of the Iron Lung in the battle against polio. These represent a small sampling of the many exciting developments resulting from a dedicated Biotechnologist. It is the expectation that modern Biotechnologists will build upon the rich history of the field to truly impact agriculture, aquaculture, medicine and laboratory science.
Trained Biotechnologists who studied at Universities in Florida have an excellent career outlook. The United States Department of Labor is projecting growth in employment of Life, Physical and Social Science occupations of 10% with some areas as high as 30%.1 Regardless of the subfield, biotechnologists can expect to find a career on the forefront of technology with ample opportunity for additional training and advancement.
M. Jordan Smith is currently a Graduate Admissions Counselor with Keiser University’s Graduate School in Tallahassee. He is a graduate of Florida State University’s nationally ranked College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the University of Florida’s prestigious College of Pharmacy. In addition to his work at Keiser University, Jordan has been mentoring STEM students preparing for Medical school for 8 years, and he is also an Advisor and Writer for Examkrackers, Inc. MCAT Test Prep series. Jordan’s spare time is consumed by reading and a personal fascination of world history.
The views and opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the contributing author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Keiser University and/or the Keiser University student body and staff.
United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm#tab-6
The Colours of Biotechnology. The Journal of Biotechnology. http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-biotechnology/news/the-colours-of-biotechnology/
Kinsburgy, Noel (2009) Hybrid: The History & Science of Plant Breeding, p18. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Reaser, Azure. (Fall 2002). Jobs In Biotechnology: Applying Old Sciences to New Discoveries. Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2002/fall/art03.pdf