NC State University has become the first in the Research Triangle to offer master’s and doctoral degrees in genomic sciences—and is one of the first in the nation to focus on genomics from the perspectives of statistics, computer sciences, forest resources, agriculture, life sciences and veterinary medicine. A comprehensive slate of new genomic sciences degree programs, fellowships and training programs is giving NC State students the right stuff to meet the demand for scientists in the genomic sciences era.

The university has been awarded more than $4 million in the past two years from government agencies and the UNC Office of the President to support graduate students pursuing degrees in functional genomics and bioinformatics. The funding supports 49 fellowships for graduate students per year. “This is a very special and important aspect of biotechnology teaching at NC State,” says Dr. Barbara Sherry, professor of virology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Genomic Studies Graduate Program. “The new programs span multiple departments, offering students opportunities to cross traditional boundaries to learn more about the many interdependent areas within functional genomics and

Rounding out the choice of graduate degree programs in genomic sciences is the Biotechnology Training Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health with matching funds from the university. This program is offered to any Ph.D. student, regardless of major, to enhance research and training experience in biotechnology beyond the exposure provided by his or her doctoral programs. Trainees complete courses for a minor in biotechnology, attend professional development seminars and symposia, serve an industry
internship for at least one month, and complete a service project involving K-12 biotechnology education.

In addition to the graduate programs, a new university-wide undergraduate minor in biotechnology has been developed for NC State students. A fully renovated Biotechnology Teaching Facility opened its doors in Jordan Hall this semester. The new teaching lab provides a state-of-the-art learning environment complete with a DNA sequencer, a genomics workstation, a computer laboratory, and individual laboratory stations for up to 40 students at a time.

A key part of both graduate and undergraduate genomics programs is a required ethics course designed to promote critical thinking about the complex ethical and social issues accompanying work with genetically modified organisms. The NC State Graduate School received National Science Foundation funding in 1999 to implement a research ethics program including instructional modules, Web
information, lectures by exemplary researchers, biennial institutes for faculty, a Research Ethics Fellows program and formal seminars.

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