officials re-evaluate curricula

[bold on]Erin Ghere[bold off][fm][bold on][bold off][bold on][bold off]
Staff Reporter[fm]

With the help of an external review team, University officials are beginning to determine some curriculum changes and research expansions in both sciences and outside areas.

Scientists have recently discovered cotton that has the warmth of fur by combining genes from rabbits with cotton genes.
That discovery and others have University officials re-evaluating course curriculums in fields such as genetics and public policy, according to two presentations given Thursday to the Board of Regents.
With scientists around the world close to unraveling the mystery of the human genetic blueprint, University programs are trying to keep up in the classroom.
Scientific fields are obviously affected, but officials in law, ethics and public policy are also beginning to discover important changes needed in their programs to keep up with the residual effects of new discoveries.
Biotechnology and biomedical technology is where most of the research and translational resources are going, wrote Frank Cerra, University vice president in charge of the Academic Health Center, in an e-mail.
Advances in genetics and biotechnology will affect agriculture, medicine, veterinary medicine, environmental science, food and nutrition, textiles, manufacturing, pollution cleanup and more in the future, according to the presentation.
Genomics will change the way we think about ourselves, said Robert Elde, College of Biological Sciences dean. Many of the major problems well face in the next 50 years will be biological in origin.
Some individuals and small groups at the University have seen this coming, and began preparing some time ago, Elde said. But the majority of University departments need to catch up.
On a positive note, the University has successful programs in microbial and plant sciences, as well as a large number of individual faculty expertise in plant, animal and microbial genomics.
Now University officials are doing what they can to strengthen the programs. Last month, the University received $15 million from the state Legislature to complete the second half of the Microbial and Plant Genomics building on Washington Avenue.
In addition, many of the 22 new faculty members the University will hire in the next year are in the genomics area.
But new buildings and faculty members will only go so far. The curriculum of many University courses needs to change as well.
The first principle we looked at was our students and prospective students, he said. What do they need to have as successful careers as possible?
The answer is two-fold, Elde explained. The University needs to retain and attract quality faculty members who will implement curriculum changes in their classrooms, and then fill out the Universitys research strengths in the expanding areas.
Cerra said faculty members also have to be supported with resources in an environment conducive to innovation. In addition, he said the University will need to work with the private sector to efficiently and effectively transfer the new knowledge into commercial development.
With the help of an external review team, University officials are beginning to determine what some of those curriculum changes and research expansions might be in both sciences and outside areas.
Elde expects the change to be gradual. Some new science courses have already been added, while others will be added or adapted over the next three years, he said.
In law, ethics and public policy, proponents argue changes must be made to ensure that the moral and legal sides of scientific advancements are addressed.
We are coming to realize that without comparable attention to ethical, legal and public policy aspects of these scientific developments, the ability of our research to have its hoped-for positive consequences for society will be severely compromised, said Victor Bloomfield, vice provost and associate dean, in his presentation to the Regents.

[italic on]Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [italic off][italic on][email protected][italic off]