Tremendous advances in biotechnology in the last few decades include many new jobs in agriculturel and industry, and hundreds of millions of people treated have been treated with its tools. Furthermore, the completion of the Human Genome Project in the early 21st century continues to usher in new paradigms for genomic medicine.
In a National Science Foundation/Department Of Energy sponsored report (2002), Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science, biotechnology is one of the four crucial converging technologies. It has much to contribute to enhancing human abilities, to solving the pressing problems faced by our society in the 21st century, and to expanding human knowledge about our species and the world we inhabit. Advances in biotechnology have important implications for economic benefits, including cheaper and faster drug development, fewer restrictions in applications, better materials and machines that perform old and new tasks, and greater environmental benefits.
A key challenge will be to maintain reversibility in all changes that are being made to living organisms in order to prevent unwanted environmental catastrophes. For example, the predominance of new organisms with enhanced capabilities in the environment prove serious concerns. New biotechnologies require drastic changes in education. Human learning, memory, and creativity—which are likely to increase as a result of the revolutions in biology—should be guided toward purpose of providing literacy in health and biology for all citizens. Close collaboration between academic and industrial partners will allow colleges and universities to focus on fundamental advances, addressing the implications and potential applications that will be evaluated and realized by industry.
Therefore, the increasing demand for individuals with knowledge and skill in the relevant areas of biology and chemistry is rapidly increasing. Pressing moral issues, such as stem cell research, cloning, gene therapies or enhancement, the ownership of human genetic information, and the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment, are awaiting thoughtful Christian input. To face these challenges, Wheaton College provides an opportunity for students to study biotechnology within the interdisciplinary major, offering a unique program of study.
Requirements for the IDS Biotechnology POS include:
- 12 upper division hours from Biology, including Biology 356, Genetics; BIOL 364 Microbiology and Immunology; Biology 374, Bioinformatics and 12 hours of Chemistry, including Chemistry 341 and 342, Organic Chemistry; and Chemistry 461, Biochemistry.
- Recommended 8 hours of electives are Biology 362, Cell and Developmental Biology and Biology/Philosophy 317, Biomedical Ethics (strongly recommended as the integrative or bridge course).
- Independent research experience (Biology or Chemistry 495) or summer laboratory internship will be helpful.
- A programming course in computer sciences can be included.
- An integrative project on biotechnology is required for the senior capstone seminar (IDS 494).
Some Sample IDS Guiding Directives for the Biotechnology POS
- Questions: What are the promises and perils of biotechnology? How might Christians respond to human cloning and stem cells research? Should there be limits to biotechnology?
- Problems: Bioterrorism, World Hunger, New Environmentalism, Genetic Discrimination, Genetically Modified Organisms, and Taking, Making and Faking Lives
- Themes: Transhumanism, Christian Stewardship, Genetic and Technological Contribution to Personhood, Humans as Creatures and Co-Creator with God