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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU establishes new science degree

The field of genetics holds tremendous potential to advance human health and to meet many of the food and fiber needs of the world. Recognizing this, New Mexico State University will offer a new genetics degree in the fall of 2008.

The new Bachelor of Science degree in genetics is a cross-college undergraduate degree offered through the College of Agriculture and Home Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences. The degree program will be offered jointly by the departments of biology and plant and environmental sciences.

"This scientific field has grown exponentially during the past decade as researchers have raced to identify most genes of humans and many other animals, plants and microorganisms," said Ian Ray, professor and chair of the advisory committee for the genetics program. "Geneticists now have tremendous opportunities to investigate how these genes influence important characteristics in all types of organisms. This information, and technologies derived from it, will affect all of us by impacting human health and food production."

The intent of the program is to prepare students for a variety of genetics-related professions, including academic research, agriculture, biology, biotechnology, health sciences and medicine. Students also will be well prepared to enter graduate school, medical school or veterinary school.

The new genetics program will capitalize on the combined expertise of more than 30 faculty in six NMSU departments to provide a diverse curriculum that will cover chemistry, biochemistry, cell and organism biology, microbiology, molecular and population genetics, human/livestock/plant physiology, biotechnology, computer science and ethics.

"We want to provide a challenging degree for New Mexico students, and make NMSU even more appealing for high achieving students," Ray said.

The majority of the courses needed for the curriculum are currently taught on campus. Eight credits of new courses will be created and several existing courses will be modified.

Scholarships for this new program will be made available through both the biology and plant and environmental sciences departments. Additional support also will be provided through a variety of undergraduate programs, such as the Howard Hughes program.

Based upon enrollment data from other institutions and the 2004 NMSU enrollment statistics, 60 to 150 students are expected to be in the program once it has matured.

"With the tremendous faculty expertise available at NMSU, our goal is to develop a program that is known for its excellence in developing students' critical thinking and analysis skills, providing "hands-on" training in multiple laboratory and computer-based techniques and equipping students to understand and solve technical problems in genetics," Ray said.