BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING: A NEW DISCIPLINE FOR THE NEXT CENTURY.

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Increasing awareness and concern about living systems and the use of biological technology has led to demand for individuals with an understanding of the life sciences combined with engineering skills. Important social/economic issues involving environmental quality, the use of recombinant genetics in foods/pharmaceuticals, and the quality of life have created a thriving job market for individuals who understand the economics, cience, and technology of dealing with living systems and their products. A new discipline, Biological Engineering, has evolved in response to this growing need for technologically trained individuals with backgrounds i the life sciences. This article reviews the issues driving the need for biological engineering discipline and summarizes current curricula t several universities. The Purdue Biochemical nd Food Process Engineering program is presented asa model for the implementation of these curriculum objectives. T HE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION of the 1800s changed forever the ways in which our civilization interacts with nature. Originally an agrarian society dependent on animal labor, science and engineering has supplanted animal work with chemical energy, allowing dispersed populations to condense into large cities. Using physical/chemical engineering principles, natural materials were transformed into a host of new products that have dramatically changed society, such as automobiles, airplanes, refrigerators, plastics, and television. Today, we are again at the forefront of a new engineering revolution in biotechnology that promises to fundamentally change the way we live. During the Industrial Revolution, we learned how to alter our environment, using machines and natural resources. During the upcoming Biotechnological Revolution, we will learn how to alter living systems and their components to suit the environment and satisfy human eeds/desires. However, the raw materials that fuel the Biotechnological Revolution will not be steel, coal, or plastic. They will be DNA, proteins, and other biomaterials derived from microbes, plants, animals, and humans. To paraphrase the cartoon character Pogo, “We have found new raw materials, and they are us.” This article highlights efforts to redefine engineering curricula to embrace the life sciences and develop an appreciation for the unique nature of the engineering issues involved with these disciplines. Biochemical and Food Process Engineering Program, Dep. of Agricultural Engineering, Purdue Univ., W. Lafayette, IN 47907. Received 19 Aug. 1992. *Corresponding author. Published in J. Nat. Resour. Life Sci. Educ. 22:34-38 (1993). BIOTECHNOLOGY: FRIEND OR FOE’,? The word biotechnology stirs a mixture of uncertain emotions in most people (Davis, 1991). Visions of medical miracles coexist with unsettling fears about rampant killer microbes, genetically altered foods, and bionic/ cyborg “robocops.” This dichotomy exists because of the fundamental belief that living systems should not be technological products. Technology is perceived as a means to alter or transform the environment o meet human needs. Engineers synthesize plastics, build magnetic trains, and create digital televisions. People control technology. But when it comes to transforming living systems into controlled, engineered commodities, there is a fundamental resistance. Life is perceived as a creative, unrestrained, independent process. Biotechnology challenges this perception with its capacity to manipulate the biochemical molecules that create and sustain life. The realization that living systems can be technologically created and synthetically manipulated, no different from the steel, plastic, and glass that are used and discarded every day, causes fear and uncertainty (Mitcham, 1989; Naisbitt and Aburdene, 1990). However, biotechnology is also capable of yielding remarkable benefits. Current echnology is creating transgenic plants to produce new food and industrial products from existing high-yield crops (Gordon-Kamm et al., 1990; Kessler et al., 1992; Moshy, 1986). Hosts of new pharmaceuticals from rare plants and animals are being developed (Gibbons, 1992; Moffat, 1992). Transgenic domestic animals are now being used as bioreactors to produce new pharmaceutical proteins in their milk (Moffat, 1991; Glanz, 1992). Extinct or endangered species are being preserved using domestic animals as universal surrogate mothers (Anonymous, 1989). Complete mapping of the human genome promises to radically alter our abilities in medical diagnostics, forensics, and treatment (Jordan, 1992). Gene therapy, the use of recombinant genetic cells and viruses to treat diseases, promises to overcome inherited disorders such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, nd cystic fibrosis, as well as nongenetic diseases uch as AIDS, cancer, and leukemia (Anderson, 1992; Collins, 1992; Kolberg, 1992; Rosenfeld et al., 1992). Bacteriorhodopsin, thelight sensing protein in eyes, is being incorporated into photoelectric receptors for ultrafast optical sensors used in optical computers (Miasaka et al., 1991). Several researchers are isolating DNA from bacteria that grow in hydrothermal underseas vents to clone new high temperature-stable enzymes for use in starch depolymerization, frustose production, coal desulfurization, bioremediation, and gold extraction (Gibbons, 1991). Within the next 50 yr, we will see incredible advances in biological engineering, comparable to the physical and 34 ̄ J. Nat. Resour. Life Sci. Educ., Vol. 22, no. 1, 1993 chemical engineering advances of the past century. Undoubtedly, visionaries in the 1890s anticipated antibiotics, automobiles, consumer electrical power, radio, airplanes, and refrigerators. But who could have anticipated space-age plastics, personal computers, color television, bullet trains, microwave ovens, and VCRs? Similarly, consider the environmental and social effects of these technologies. The engineers who designed air conditioners and refrigerators never dreamed that chlorofluorocarbons could deplete the ozone layer. Automobile and power plant engineers didn’t anticipate global warming due to increased carbon dioxide emissions. The designers of television probably never anticipated that Americans would spend an average of 6 ha per day watching the TV and read less than one book per year. Just as vacuum-tube ngineers in the 1920s could not have envisioned silicon microprocessors and laser optics, the applications of biotechnology in the next century will probably exceed our wildest dreams. Unimagined successes and miracles may be just around the corner in Offsetting these benefits, however, are the risks of permanently altering both the environment and ourselves, due to the fundamental nature of the technology. For example, the Human Genome project offers immense promise for therapeutic treatments via targeting and alteration of human genetic disorders (Jordan, 1992). However, such technology also offers opportunities to radically alter long-accepted social customs/traditions, such as behavioral genetics or selective genetic manipulation of human physiological traits (Aldhous, 1992). Social issues involving personal privacy, individual/corporate ownership of genetic materials, and discrimination based on genotype have already arisen in the legal system. As authors of technology, we bear the responsibility not only to develop applications of this new technology, but also to evaluate the social consequences and inform others of the risks and benefits. We cannot ethically abandon these responsibilities to well-intentioned, but technically uneducated politicians and social activists. As teachers, we must educate a new generation of engineers in both the principles of biotechnology and the implications of biological engineering. Incorporating these technical and ethical considerations into a coherent biological engineering curriculum is then the challenge facing us. BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING New engineering disciplines have always evolved from combinations of existing scientific and engineering fields. Agricultural engineering grew from agronomy and mechanical engineering. Chemical engineering evolved from chemistry and mechanical engineering. Biological engineering, a new discipline, is now coalescing from biology/biochemistry, food science, agricultural engineering, and chemical engineering (Cuello, 1992). Conceptually, biological engineering is the technical utilization of living systems, their components, and products to fulfill social needs. Current biological engineering applications focus on the food processing and pharmaceutical industries. However, with the advent of new molecular biological tools, engineering applications are also springing up in agriculture, medicine, ecology, and environmental studies. With new discoveries coming almost daily, coherent engineering programs are needed to teach the scientific principles, engineering technology, ethical use of these developments, and their potential effects on society. Historically, the curricula of agricultural and chemical engineering have added elective courses in biochemical or biosystems engineering to meet this need. Trend-setting engineering schools, such as MIT, now require all students to take biology courses as a fundamental science, similar to chemistry, physics, and mathematics. However, with the expanding technology and the demand for a more comprehensive life sciences background, the need for a more fundamental disciplinary change has emerged (Johnson and Davis, 1990). Core Biological Engineering Curriculum A set of workshops, funded by the USDA, was held to develop curriculum guidelines for biological engineering (Garrett, 1992). The main emphasis of these guidelines was to define clearly the concepts encompassed by biological engineering and the competencies expected of biological engineers. A set of core courses was developed, composed of engineering-based topics in biology, biophysics, and biomaterials.

BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING: A NEW DISCIPLINE FOR THE NEXT CENTURY.

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  • CATEGORY : ANIMAL SCIENCE
  • TYPE : PROJECT MATERIAL
  • FORMAT : MICROSOFT WORD
  • ATTRIBUTE : Documentation Only
  • PAGES : 65 Pages
  • CHAPTERS : 1 - 5
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Increasing awareness and concern about living systems and the use of biological technology has led to demand for individuals with an understanding of the life sciences combined with engineering skills. Important social/economic issues involving environmental quality, the use of recombinant genetics in foods/pharmaceuticals, and the quality of life have created a thriving job market for individuals who understand the economics, cience, and technology of dealing with living systems and their products. A new discipline, Biological Engineering, has evolved in response to this growing need for technologically trained individuals with backgrounds i the life sciences. This article reviews the issues driving the need for biological engineering discipline and summarizes current curricula t several universities. The Purdue Biochemical nd Food Process Engineering program is presented asa model for the implementation of these curriculum objectives. T HE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION of the 1800s changed forever the ways in which our civilization interacts with nature. Originally an agrarian society dependent on animal labor, science and engineering has supplanted animal work with chemical energy, allowing dispersed populations to condense into large cities. Using physical/chemical engineering principles, natural materials were transformed into a host of new products that have dramatically changed society, such as automobiles, airplanes, refrigerators, plastics, and television. Today, we are agai.. animal science project topics

BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING: A NEW DISCIPLINE FOR THE NEXT CENTURY.