With the start of spring semester in January, Otero Junior College will be offering Introduction to Biotechnology (BIO 160), the first course required for a new degree program in biotechnology that will soon be available to students.

With the start of spring semester in January, Otero Junior College will be offering Introduction to Biotechnology (BIO 160), the first course required for a new degree program in biotechnology that will soon be available to students.

Dr. Joel Gray, chair of OJC’s math and science department, stated that OJC’s new Associate of Science degree with an emphasis in biotechnology will be fully launched in the fall of 2015; however, students who would like to get a head start on the curriculum requirements will have the opportunity to take Introduction to Biotechnology during spring semester.

“Our new Biotechnology degree program is supported by the United States Department of Education Title III, Part F Hispanic Serving Institution’s STEM grant program,” said Gray. “We are very fortunate to be able to offer this high demand program here at OJC to further science, technology, engineering and math education.”

Gray explained that Introduction to Biotechnology is the foundation course for three emphasis area options. Those options will include: Agricultural Biotech, Biomedical and Forensics Biotech.

“This course is the gateway course into those three emphasis areas,” said Gray. “The course will introduce students to modern molecular biology technologies that include DNA, RNA and proteins. The course will prepare students for research and industry and offer laboratory experience that includes sterile technique, microscopy, media preparation and bacterial culturing.”

Gray said that OJC recognizes how important it is to give students an edge in the job market and that today’s STEM jobs demand that employees possess both technical skills and soft skills such as organization, attention-to-detail, critical thinking and problem solving.

“To help further develop those skills outside the classroom, biotechnology students at OJC will have the opportunity to serve in internships with biotechnology companies to gain on the job experience,” he said.

Introduction to Biotechnology will be taught during spring semester by Dr. Kristi Tschetter. Dr. Tschetter earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Sioux Falls and a Ph.D. in basic biomedical sciences with specialization in neuroscience from the University of South Dakota.

“I think Biotechnology is one of the most promising fields of study for students to pursue right now because of the high demand for employees who have the kind of skills that we will be teaching here at OJC,” said Tschetter.

Tschetter explained that biotechnology crosses a vast number of disciplines and specialties. She said the three emphasis areas that students can choose from will include:
· Forensics Biotech, designed so students can develop skills to conduct DNA fingerprinting, and identify non-human organisms.
· Agricultural Biotech will focus on teaching students laboratory skills used for increasing crop yields, seed technology or producing healthier foods.
· Biomedical Biotech emphasizes studies such as the diagnosis, prevention and control of infections and communicable diseases.

“All three emphasis areas will prepare biotechnology graduates with laboratory skills in DNA manipulation and analysis, expressing and purifying proteins, cell culture and polymerase chain reaction techniques used across biotechnology industries,” said Tschetter. “Those are skills that biotechnology companies are seeking in today’s job market.”

Introduction to Biotechnology (BIO 160) will be offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-9:50 a.m. Spring semester begins on Jan. 12 and completes on May 1, 2015. For more information or to register, stop by the OJC Student Services Center on south San Juan Avenue or call 384-6831.

For additional information about OJC’s biotechnology program contact Dr. Kristi Tschetter at 384-6853 kristi.tschetter@ojc.edu or Dr. Joel Gray at 384-6892 joel.gray@ojc.edu.