Biology is not just for biologists anymore: chemists have crossed over into the field. Chemical biologists are at the forefront of many of the latest advances in science today. Their work touches nearly every aspect of our lives, including agriculture, biotechnology, and healthcare. They have analyzed DNA traces found during crime scene investigations, formulated insulin and other life-saving medicines, and have even designed yeast-based biosensors that sniff out explosives. There is an increasing need for scientists and technicians who are well versed in both biology and chemistry.
This dual knowledge — chemical biology — constitutes an emerging discipline that lies at the very core of the biotechnology industry.
Lawrence Technological University’s Bachelor of Science in Chemical Biology responds to the growing demand for skilled scientists in the biomedical and biotechnology fields. It is designed to prepare you to enter this field with a strong background in both disciplines and a full appreciation of their interdependence.
The state of Michigan is devoting considerable resources to the development of a life sciences and biotechnology infrastructure. MichBio, a consortium of about 100 companies and educational institutions, has been established to facilitate the growth of biotechnology opportunities in Michigan. Lawrence Tech is an integral part
of this effort and a member of MichBio.
While specialized training in chemical biology has been available at the graduate level for several decades, the chemical biology undergraduate program at Lawrence Tech is the first in the Midwest and one of only a handful in the United States. With the completion of several genome-sequencing projects, a new era of biology has emerged in which biomedical research and DNA and drug screening is routinely conducted at a scale that is several orders of magnitude larger than before. This trend has dramatically increased the demand for scientists who are knowledgeable in both chemistry and biology. Lawrence Tech’s Bachelor of Science in Chemical Biology was created to meet this urgent need.
A recent development in the production of flu vaccines demonstrates the importance of chemical biology. Since the 1950s, vaccines have been produced using viral growth in embryonated hen’s eggs – a method that currently produces 300 million doses per year. However, it takes three to six months to develop a vaccine that is effective against a new strain of flu virus and this rate of turnover is too slow to deal with a pandemic flu outbreak.
In 2005, exploring chemistry to solve a biological problem, chemical biologists used caterpillars to develop a genetically engineered flu vaccine. Studies have shown this caterpillar flu vaccine to be more effective than the traditional vaccine. Furthermore, the rate of turnover is rapid – one to two months – and 900 million doses per year can be produced, which is enough to treat a pandemic. This is one of the many examples of how breakthroughs in the field of chemical biology are changing our lives for the better.
1) How does chemical biology differ from a degree in biochemistry?
While training in biochemistry is an essential component to the chemical biology degree, traditional biochemistry focuses more on the molecules themselves. Some biochemistry programs include no biology whatsoever. Lawrence Tech's chemical biology degree places a much larger emphasis on the molecules' biological functions and their roles in sustaining a living organism.
2) How does chemical biology differ from a traditional biology degree?
Traditional biology covers a wide range of topics, including the structures of plant and animal kingdoms, botany, zoology, ecology, animal behavior. Many of these are indeed covered in our introductory biology courses. However, the thrust of Lawrence Tech's advanced training in chemical biology program is the fundamental processes that allow vertebrate animals-especially human beings-to function and thrive. One essential element is the role of molecules in the function of individual cells. Another is their role in the physiology of the larger organism. In a traditional biology program these topics would be considered in a more superficial fashion.
3) How does chemical biology differ from a degree in molecular biology or in molecular and cell biology?
These disciplines have a lot in common. However, molecular biology is almost always taught as a sub-discipline of biology, often at the graduate level. The chemistry training in Lawrence Tech’s chemical biology program is more extensive than in traditional molecular biology programs and prepares a student for graduate work in chemistry and biochemistry as well as in chemical biology. For students with a stronger biology bent, Lawrence Tech has established new Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology. In some respects, this new degree is the mirror image of chemical biology: firmly rooted in the biological disciplines but with a heightened focus on the functioning of the cell and a stronger chemistry requirement than in traditional biology programs.
4) Do I have to decide which program is right for me in my freshman year?
No. Lawrence Tech's programs in chemical biology and in molecular and cell biology overlap extensively in the first two years. Students can switch majors in either direction as late as the junior year with only a minor reworking of their course schedules. However, the mathematics and physics requirements for chemical biology are somewhat higher than those for molecular and cell biology. Students who are unsure of which major to choose should follow the mathematics and physics sequence for chemical biology until a final decision is made.
5) Are there significant employment opportunities in the biotechnology industry in Michigan?
The industry-education consortium, MichBio, has identified over 542 companies in the State of Michigan with substantial presence in the life sciences and biotechnology areas. Recently, this number has been increasing at a rate of 20 per year. About $2 billion are invested annually in these areas in Michigan. The State of Michigan has recently committed considerable funding to further encourage the growth of biotechnology within its borders. Thus, the prospects for employment upon graduation are high and expected only to get better.
Why Chemical Biology at LTU?
Lawrence Tech has successfully educated scientists for over 75 years. Chemical biology builds on the University’s strengths to give you an advantage over more traditional programs. The program is characterized by:
• Broad basic training in the parent disciplines
• A coherent integration of fundamental and advanced concepts throughout the curriculum
• Small classes and close contact with faculty
• Extensive laboratory experience that extends and complements the ideas developed in lectures
• Co-op and internship opportunities in the industry
• Comprehensive use of information technology capabilities
• Teamwork and the development of communication skills
The chemical biology program aims to prepare you for entry-level scientific careers in a variety of disciplines. The breadth and depth of your training also gives you the option to pursue graduate work in such fields as biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, chemical biology, immunology, medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, molecular genetics, neurobiology, pharmacology, and public health.
This program can be especially useful if you are preparing for advanced degrees in the health professions, including dentistry, medicine, veterinary science, optometry, and pharmacy.
CurriculumYour 124-credit-hour program consists of:
|Chemistry, including Biochemistry||40 - 46|
|Biology||22 - 28|
|Mathematics, including Calculus and Statistics||15|
|Humanities (with emphasis on leadership)||29|
Graduates with a degree in Chemical Biology have many career options:
Molecular cell biology
Research and development