TWU announces Biotechnology major

Alex Degroot and Sean Fraser both first year biotech majors with a focus in business administration are coached by TWU biotechnology Professor Julia Mills.

Are the foods you eat safe? Will dinosaurs roam the earth once again as in Jurassic Park? Are we moving towards a superhuman race as in Gattaca? Biotechnology can help to answer these and other compelling questions but while it is the furthest reaching and fastest growing area of science it remains largely unknown. Trinity Western University hopes to change that and is pleased to announce that it is offering a new biotechnology major.

Led by Program Director and Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Julia Mills, the biotechnology major offers students superior knowledge in the areas of science and business. With more laboratory components and smaller class sizes, biotech majors can count on one-on-one time with their professors, while meeting the entry requirements for medical school and other professional schools.

Mills says, "Our program offers biotech majors the opportunity to not only study intense science and business courses in the classroom but also take part in paid internships and co-op programs where they can work alongside biotechnology experts conducting critical and important research. This program allows students to wear the hat and explore career options that they may not have even considered. It allows our students to be job-ready."

Simply stated, biotechnology is really the combination of science and technology, using living organisms to produce goods and services. Applications of biotechnology are far reaching and include food production, forestry, agriculture, medicine and the environment. Things like genetically altering food such as potatoes and corn to make them resistant to certain insects - commonly known in some circles as "Frankenfoods," the creation of environmentally friendly fuels, DNA fingerprinting in forensic sciences and in extreme cases genetically modifying animals to produce "glow in the dark kittens" and "super salmon." Biotechnology also underlies the "omics" revolution (genomics, pharmacogenomics, transcriptomics) and has greatly improved our ability to diagnose and treat human disease.

With this new ability to harvest genomic information and mutate creation, questions and concerns on ethics abound. Mills says, "At TWU we address the ethics involved with biotechnology, asking tough questions. Just because something is viable is it always acceptable to do? Being able to address these ethical issues in the context of a Christian world view makes for very open and thought provoking dialogue. Our graduates are not only able to excel in the Health Sciences but will also be aware of the risks as we progress in this industry. It is important that we keep ahead of the sciences where ethics is concerned."

BioTech-JuliaMills1Mills own research interests lie within adult stem cell and Alzheimer's disease research. With numerous refereed publications in prestigious journals such as the Journal of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology of the Cell, Mills comes to TWU with a wealth of professional and academic success. As well as possessing a breadth of teaching and research experience from UBC, Queen's University and University of Toronto, Mills was coordinator of the Careers in BioMedical Science Seminar Series at the University of Toronto and worked as a consultant for a biotech company and pharmaceutical recruiting organization.

Dean of Natural and Applied Sciences, Dr. Jack VanDyke says, "One of the greatest strengths of our faculty is the level of integration that occurs between the faculty in various programs throughout the natural sciences. This is a tremendous asset for a multi-disciplined program such as Biotechnology. One example of the potential benefit is that we plan to strengthen the partnership between Biotechnology and Environmental studies to create a greener campus."

One of the studies that Mills is hoping to pursue with biotechnology students is examining how different types of compostable cutlery break down and the rate in which they do. It is hoped that TWU will have a 0% cafeteria waste by 2009.

This type of integration and connection within disciplines is what makes graduates from Canada's foremost Christian university so successful. Mills strongly believes in the mission of TWU and in the quality of students it produces saying, "We as instructors have the chance not just to aid in the intellectual instruction of students but also to speak to the entire person as a whole. Within biotechnology, a highly dynamic field, I feel that it is important to develop transferable skills in the students such as communication skills, teamwork, flexibility and initiative. The liberal arts education and the campus life that TWU offers help fulfill these qualities in our students."

More information on the Biotechnology major can be found by visiting the Faculty and National and Applied Sciences website at

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C. is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers undergraduate degrees in 40 major areas of study ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology and leadership, and offers interdisciplinary studies in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Biblical Studies, Biology and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.


Last Updated: 2008-05-05
Author: Erin Mussolum