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UMass gets on course with bio, science

By From Mass High Tech Online By Patricia Resende

The University of Massachusetts is jumping on the biotech bandwagon.


The state university has announced its new Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering and biotechnology.


Starting this January, UMass campuses in Worcester, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell will begin teaching courses in physical science and biotech as part of its new doctorate program.


UMass-Amherst has decided not to offer the rogram. However, according to UMass officials, the long-term goal is to get that campus involved.


Bryan Buchholz, who has been given the task of rolling out the program, said biotechnology and biomedical engineering is “a growing field” and the university “had to jump on it.”


“The other part was to match up engineering and physical science program with the medical field,” Buchholz said.


The number of bio-tech jobs in the state has dramatically increased in the last decade, according to statistics provided by the Massachusetts Bio-technology Council.


In 1991 there were 7,682 biotech jobs and 88 biotech companies in the state. Today, that number has skyrocketed to 26,329 employees at 275 companies.


Bay State biotech companies continue to grow and are seeking skilled scientists and engineers to fill positions. Nearly 45 biotech companies are hiring today, according to the Mass. Biotech Council.


The university hopes that its new group of courses with existing classes that have been “tweaked” and new courses will serve its students’ needs.


Buchholz says the university has already received applications for the program and expects to have 100 students at each of the campuses in the program.


“At Lowell we have received 25 applications already,” he said. “And I think it is fairly high for a brand new program.”


“The people applying are diverse,” he added. “Some are working in biotech right now and are trying to get a higher level degree and feel that this is the field of the future.”


Buchholz believes that the number of students in the program will “continue to grow for the next few years.”


“It’s an exciting, new program that will open up opportunities for collaboration between students and faculty at all four campuses.”