Biotechnology in 2020 and beyond

Training the next generation of professionals

Posted on Jan 30, 2020 :: Partner
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Posted by By Sabrina Mueller-Spitz, environmental microbiologist, UW Oshkosh Biology Department

As a microbiologist, it amazes me how the general public is bombarded with information detailing how the microbes in our gut (e.g. microbiome) are essential to good health and combating disease.

It is predicted that we are moving toward a more personalized approach to medicine focused on improving and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. During our regular physical examinations and following diagnostic tests in the future, we may receive guidance and instruction about how dietary nourishment can change our gut microbiome based upon diet modification. It may sound like science fiction, but the benefits of a more personalized and preventive approach are already evident based on current testing procedures for non-invasive screening of colon cancer in a similar manner.

How did we get to this point in understanding human health?

It all has to do with the ongoing revolution in data collection. Fostered by high-output DNA sequencing technologies, these findings have allowed researchers to more finely examine the molecular structure of microbial communities. These same technologies have been applied to other areas in human health and biopharma to drastically advance how scientists explore and determine patterns essential to:

  • Understanding human health and disease
  • Biomining for new pharmaceuticals and bioactive products to be used in manufacturing and industry
  • Employing various methodologies allowing for these technologies

The innovations and products stemming from big-data sequencing projects and related studies reveal numerous opportunities for current science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals.

Biotechnology is an industry that is thriving in Wisconsin, with our state housing more than 500 companies engaged in various specialties. These companies need well-trained and practically versed professionals to continue to produce innovative advancements.

Who is ready to develop new methods, diagnostic tests and products stemming from big-data outputs to tackle the emerging challenges in front of the biotechnology industry?

We need professionals who are not only well-versed in new technologies but are also able to bridge the gap between business and technical team members. In a new venture, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has partnered with UW Extended Campus to offer a Master’s of Science degree in Applied Biotechnology.

Faculty from across the UW System designed the curriculum around the needs of Wisconsin biotechnology companies. Students within our program will enhance their marketability by advancing their knowledge in current and emerging technologies across the field of biotechnology, professional and technical communication, and the business landscape.

The convenience and flexibility provided by the online delivery platform makes this program a desirable option for full-time employees who are currently working on advancement within a career track. Students in the program are able to balance their demanding schedules that are also filled with personal and family obligations. The culminating component is the capstone project that students are required to complete, thereby allowing them to explore a need revealed in their current organization or an area of personal interest to further enhance their application of new knowledge in the biotechnology field.

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Sabrina Mueller-Spitz, Ph.D., is an environmental microbiologist in the UW Oshkosh Biology Department. Her primary research interests are concentrated on the connection between microbial communities and environmental health with a focus on how these interactions can impact human health.