Queen’s & St. Lawrence join forces for new biotechnology program

New joint Biotechnology Specialization Plan offers theoretical and practical education

Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products.
Credit: 
Supplied by Luigi Guarino

Queen’s has announced a new collaborative biotechnology program with St. Lawrence College, which will allow students from both institutions to enroll in a five-year, hands-on degree.

The joint Bachelor of Science (Honours) Collaborative Biotechnology Program, which was announced earlier this month, is one of the first of its kind. It will be offered beginning next September.

The program allows students enrolled at either Queen’s University or St. Lawrence College to earn credit towards their degree from either institution. 

The program, which is designed to produce career-ready graduates to work in the emerging field of biotechnology — the use of living organisms to develop new technology — requires only five years of study.

Previously, a similar program would take seven years to complete (four years for a university diploma and three years to acquire a college certificate). 

Queen’s biology professor Dr. Sharon Regan spearheaded the initiative. She says the collaboration will offer Queen’s students the opportunity to receive practical lab work to prepare them for future employment in biotechnology.

“College training and university training teach different parts of the brain. But having the students exposed to both, and having students from both backgrounds, may create some very interesting dialogue in the classrooms,” Regan said.

“At Queen’s, we teach the theoretical [aspects of biotechnology], but it is not until fourth year that our students have any sort of practical exposure.”  

For students at St. Lawrence, the program provides an opportunity to study at a university level.

“It will most certainly give these students a novel opportunity to study at Queen’s,” she said. 

In the end, students from both institutions will come out of the program with two sets of credentials — theoretical and practical.

Students can begin their studies towards the specialized degree/diploma at either institution. They’ll spend between two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years at Queen’s and the rest of the program at St. Lawrence. 

A Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biotechnology Specialization Program will also be offered as a stand-alone, four-year degree program to Queen’s students. It received approval at the same time as the new joint program.

According to Dr. Regan, both Queen’s and St. Lawrence will offer courses on the ethical and societal implications of biotechnology.

“It’s so critical to think about the impacts,” Dr. Regan said.

Courses include the study of drug discovery and applied biotechnology, where students will learn how to culture yeast and fungi. Other courses will feature a scaling up process, where students will devise, build and modify structures for biotechnological procedures. 

Dr. Regan said the program will prepare students for a multitude and variety of professions, ranging from pharmaceuticals, biotech companies, government agencies, patent law and conservation initiatives.

It’s unclear at the moment how many students will enter the program in its inaugural year. However, both schools have expressed interest in expanding their programs if need be, Regan said.

“Right now, we are predicting 20-25 students per year, but if students realize this will make them more marketable, this may really take off,” she said.

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