A Path to Improving Education in BioRenewables

Achievement date: 


Educators at the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC), recently announced the creation of a new Biorenewable Chemicals Graduate (BCG) Minor at CBiRC’s lead institute, Iowa State University.  The BCG allows students from a variety of allied disciplines to understand the opportunities for developing biorenewable chemicals.


Students in the minor gain explicit entrepreneurial internship experience, a background in the general issues related to production and processing of biorenewable resources, and exposure to the economic and environmental realities of the chemical industry.  It is a unique educational experience that combines high-quality technical education with hands-on entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. 



The new BCG Minor is designed to complement and enhance a broader, more extensive educational mission of the CBiRC, including educating pre-college teachers and students and providing research experiences for undergraduates as well as novel graduate curricula for students in CBiRC-allied fields.  This broader educational mission reflects the outward-focusing characteristics of a “Generation-3” ERC, of which CBiRC is in the vanguard.

The new minor consists of a 14-credit-hour sequence: 8 hours of graduate coursework in Fundamentals of Biorenewable Resources and Technology (3 cr), Biological and Chemical Catalysis (3 cr), The Evolving Chemical Industry (1 cr), and a Biorenewable Chemicals Entrepreneurial Internship (1 cr); and 6 credits of coursework selected from a list of courses reflecting CBiRC's three technical thrust areas: New Biocatalysts for Pathway Engineering (Thrust 1), Microbial Metabolic Engineering (Thrust 2), and Chemical Catalyst Design (Thrust 3).  Additional training for students in the graduate minor occurs through annual CBiRC center-wide meetings.  Students present posters and learn about each other's research findings, thereby gaining a better appreciation for both chemical and biological catalysis routes for producing biorenewable chemicals.

The CBiRC course materials are designed to facilitate the development of new interdisciplinary graduate minors, concentrations, or options in biorenewable chemicals at all the Center’s partner institutions.