Descriptions of the two required courses are listed below, and updates can be found on the BMB course website.

Course: BMB 961 "Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability"
Semester(s) offered: Spring (May vary in the future. Please visit the schedule of courses page for updates:
Credits: 3
Restrictions: Approval of the Instructor, Dr. Bjoern Hamberger (
Prerequisites: Basic knowledge in molecular biology, genomics, or plant biochemistry as demonstrated by having completed at least one of the following graduate level classes: BMB 801, BMB 961 (Genomics), BMB 864, or BMB 856
Description:  This course is part of an interdisciplinary effort to foster opportunities for graduate students with interest in plant biotechnology. A broad overview of the state-of-the art of plant biotechnology and related fields will be provided. In addition, students are encouraged to think about concepts and ideas that can be potentially commercialized. Special emphasis will be on plant metabolic pathways that impact human health and nutrition, as well as sustainability in the production of therapeutics, food and fuels from plants and algae. Examples and case studies will be discussed that cover hosts, strategies and pitfalls in expression of foreign pathways. Examples are chosen to explain in simple terms basic metabolic engineering principles, including synthetic biology approaches to generate, analyze, and optimize transgenic plants or algae. Some of the chosen cases will be particularly suited to discuss regulatory and commercial issues related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the ‘share-your-parts’ philosophy, as promoted for example by the international genetically modified machine (iGEM) initiative. To actively participate in the course, students need to have a basic understanding of molecular biology, genomics, or plant biochemistry, and are expected to read background and original research papers as assigned. Students will be guided to develop a 3-page brochure presenting a scientific idea for a plant biotechnology based product or process with a recognized need or new opportunity. The students will need to lay out the idea, present reasonable milestones and be aware of potential technical, commercial, or societal hurdles, and articulate how the proposed technology would address the need or opportunity. Relevant concepts (novel technologies for genome editing, societal acceptance and outreach, IP aspects) will be discussed and a list of topics will be developed during the first three weeks of the course together with the students. The instructor(s) will provide guidance and feedback to the students on an individual base as they develop their project. During the final sessions of the semester, students will be asked to pitch their idea in a 10 min presentation, followed by feedback from the entire group.
NOTE: Please see schedule of courses for special enrollment instructions.
Syllabus: Spring 2018 (PDF)
Previous:  Spring 2016 (PDF)
Course: BMB 960 Sect 301 "Plant Biotechnology Research Forum"
Semester(s) offered: Fall 2017 (First 8 weeks of the semester)
Credits: 1

This is an advanced seminar focusing on reading of the literature and student presentations on topics related to plant biotechnology. Topic areas in general address modern problems in human health and environmental sustainability. Specifically in 2016 areas have included the engineering of ABA receptors for drought tolerance, engineering a plant biosynthetic pathway for sustainable production of a natural compounds, navigation of agricultural biotechnology workplaces from industrial perspective, repurposing the cutin pathway for triacylglycerol synthesis. The course is part of the training program in plant biotechnology 'Plants for Health and Sustainability' (, though students not participating in the training program are also very welcome to take the course. Confirmed speakers for 2017 are representatives from the industry, NASA, national labs and academia.

If you are not a declared Biochemistry graduate student, you will need to submit the online override request form ( and then contact the instructors (Drs Björn Hamberger,, and Rob Last, for permission to enroll. Enrollment will be limited to 15 students.

IMPORTANT: Attendance of the Symposium taking place in October will be a required portion of the course.

Syllabus: Fall 2017 (PDF)
Previous: Fall 2016 (PDF)

Quantitative training requirement:
Participants are also expected to complete at least one semester of coursework focused on statistical/quantitative analysis or computational biology. The following list is a selection of courses that fulfill this requirement.

These three CMSE 890-300 level courses together would fulfill the requirement:

  • Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering (CMSE) 890-301 ‘Programming Foundations for Bioinformatics’. One-credit introductory module.
  • Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering CMSE 890-302 ‘Statistical Analysis and Visualization of Biological Data’. One credit continuation module.
  • Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering 890-303 ‘Transcriptomic Data Analysis: from Reads to Functions’. One credit bioinformatics follow up module.

Other courses that would fulfill this requirement:

  • Plant Biology 810 ‘Theory and Practice in Bioinformatics’. Three credit intensive follow up to CMSE 890 modules. Can also be taken as a stand-alone course.
  • Statistics and Probability 814 ‘Advanced Statistics for Biologists’. Four credit intensive course for advanced students.
  • Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering 801 ‘Introduction to Computational Modeling’
  • Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering 802 ‘Methods in Computational Modeling’
  • Chemical Engineering 882 ‘Advanced Biochemical Engineering’. Three credit course focused on synthetic biology and biomanufacturing.