UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin today announced the launch of an all-university Ph.D. program in Integrated Biosciences (IBS) to be centered on the UMD campus and set to begin in September 2008. The unique, cutting edge program will be one of only three others in the entire nation and will offer a dynamic new integrative approach to the field of biology. By emphasizing the new, larger integrative picture of how various biological disciplines interact with one another, scientists can employ multi-pronged approaches to study living organisms and their affect on their environments. This larger picture then spans the relational gap from a tiny molecule to an entire ecosystem.
"The launch of the Ph.D. program in Integrated Biosciences is the next great step in advanced graduate education at UMD," said Chancellor Martin. "The high quality of our faculty and the variety and depth of their teaching and research experience make this unique and important degree possible. The study of Integrated Biosciences is at the leading edge of 21st century science, and we are excited for its future."
note: In March 2007 UMD announced its first doctoral program in education (the Ed.D.).
The UMD IBS program was approved by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents at its meeting today and represents more than six years of planning and the collaboration of 60 scientists and faculty members. Joint administration and teaching will be provided by the strong cooperation and interaction of the UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering, the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth, College of Pharmacy-Duluth, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute (NRRI), UMD Large Lakes Observatory (LLO),and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Duluth. Participating colleges from the U of M, Twin Cities include the Medical School, the Institute of Technology, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences. UMD Professor and head of the Department of Biology Matt Andrews is the founding director of the IBS program.
"Biological problems are among the most pressing faced by society today because of their implications for national and international health, the economy, and environmental stability," said Gary Davis, Senior Associate Dean of the Medical School-Duluth. "Most major advances in understanding complex systems happen when we cross the boundaries of disciplines. And this program encourages exciting multiple paths into those discoveries."
The primary educational objective of the IBS graduate program is to prepare research scientists, technicians, and future college faculty for careers in the biological sciences. Students will train broadly in the biological sciences and will also select an area of deep specialization. The training received in the IBS graduate program will give students experience with cutting edge technology so that they will be competitive in academic, industrial and governmental settings. Several major employers of biologists in Minnesota have expressed interest in this program as a source of future employees trained in interdisciplinary biology.
IBS program director Professor Matt Andrews said, "This is a fantastic day for UMD and for our entire region. It validates what we have known all along—that the UMD community does cutting-edge research and provides an excellent training environment for advanced graduate studies."
There has been an explosion of recent interest in integrated approaches to biological problems. Such integrated approaches combine concepts and techniques from the molecular, physiological and ecological disciplines that had formerly communicated only rarely. For example, the structure of genes and the relationship of that structure to function—are now being integrated to gain understandings of how organisms interact with their environments.
The rapid evolution of the AIDS and SARS viruses, Chronic Wasting Disease, and other diseases require the integration of evolutionary biology and population genetics to discover how these pathogens are propagated through our environment. Global climate change will affect not only the flows of carbon and nutrients through the world's ecosystems, but will also affect the distribution of the organisms themselves including other disease bearing vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks.
Applications are now being accepted for the IBS Ph.D. program. UMD currently offers a masters degree in Integrated Biosciences. The masters program is in its second year.
Note: A Ph.D. degree program in Integrated Biosciences is offered at only three other universities in the United States. They are: the University of Akron, the University of California, Berkeley, and Penn State.