QAre the science curriculums at high schools or earlier teaching about biotech?

Are the science curriculums at high schools or earlier teaching about biotech?

AExpert Answer

High school science standards in California require students to learn the fundamentals of cell biology, genetics, evolution and ecology, topics that form a theoretical knowledge base supporting the applied science of biotechnology. Biotechnology is taught in many middle school and high school life science classes, including single-unit modules within a course, stand-alone elective biotechnology courses, and structured, multi-year academies that interact with local research universities and biotech companies.  A model high school academy program in our region is the Sheldon High School Biotech Academy. Students in the academy take four years of biotech-related life science courses, including two community college-level courses offered by the American River College Biotechnology Program.


Students at all levels are interested in how we can use our knowledge of the natural world to meet challenges in health care, agriculture and environmental sustainability.  Hot topics for classroom discussion in the arena of medical biotechnology include regenerative medicine, personal genomics and drug discovery.  Other areas of active inquiry and discussion are agricultural biotechnology, nanobiotechnology and renewable energy.  In particular, food security and managing global energy needs in the face of dwindling natural resources and climate instability (biofuels, bioenergy crops, drought-tolerant/water-use efficient (WUE) crops, nitrogen-use efficient (NUE) crops, etc.) pose big challenges.  Society needs young scientists and engineers to start mulling over solutions to these challenges and planning for careers in STEM (White House National Bioeconomy Blueprint, 2012). 


In regions with a high concentration of biotechnology companies and research universities, there are typically many opportunities for local schools to engage with academic and industry scientists working in biotech.  For example, to keep Northern California K–14 students and teachers up to speed with the latest biotech advances, we've established the BioTech SYSTEM consortium, which brings together colleges, universities, biotech industry partners and school districts.  One of our primary goals is to ensure that students know about training programs and career opportunities in our region's biotech community.  The main outreach activity of BioTech SYSTEM is the Teen Biotech Challenge web design competition for high school students, which encourages students to explore current topics in biotechnology (ag biotech, computational & systems biotech, drug discovery & biomanufacturing, environmental biotech, nanobiotech, personal genomics & human health, and regenerative medicine), including economic and societal impacts. 

Posted on November 17, 2017
When people refer to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), they are referring to precision plant breeding using genetic engineering. It allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait (like resistance to drought, insects, weeds, and disease) from one plant or organism and transfer it to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. You may have also heard of agricultural biotechnology or biotech seeds.... Read More
Posted on October 26, 2017
An "LMO" (Living Modified Organism) is basically a GMO that is alive and capable of passing on its genes to a subsequent generation. In most situations, the terms LMO and GMO are essentially synonymous, but neither term is really used by most biotechnologists! More on that below.    The term LMO was used in the Cartegena Protocol (basically a big document that came out of an international convention several years ago, more detailed info here.)   The reason we as... Read More
Posted on October 6, 2017
Biotechnology as a discipline focuses on understanding molecular biology and has applications in medicine/health, environmental science, industrial products and agriculture. Biotechnology is widely used in all these sectors. I will focus my answer on agricultural biotechnology.   In many countries (e.g., Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States) a significant amount of agricultural research, especially basic research in molecular biology, is conducted by governmental agricultural... Read More