Biotechnology

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Biotechnology is considered by the European Federation of Biotechnology as ‘the integration of natural and engineering sciences in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells, part thereof, and molecular analogues for product and services’.

It is one of the fastest growing fields in the world and contributes millions in revenue to the world economies, especially in the USA and the European Union.  South Africa has not yet taken advantage of the boom in biotechnology and the benefits associated with it.  The University of Limpopo is situated in an area where there is diverse plant, animal and microbial life that has not been exploited to our advantage.  The School of Molecular and Life Sciences is striving to become a Centre of Excellence in the training of Biotechnologists, as well as in a variety of research areas in which we take advantage of our natural heritage.

Unlike a single scientific discipline, Biotechnology can draw upon a wide array of relevant fields such as Microbiology, Biochemistry, Molecular biology, Cell biology, Immunology, Protein engineering, Biochemical/Chemical engineering, Enzymology, Classified breeding techniques, and a range of Bioprocess technology.  To this end the MSc degree accepts Honours graduates (or equivalent), with good academic records, from multiple disciplines such as Aquaculture, Agriculture, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Medical Sciences, Biochemistry and Microbiology. Biotechnology is a priority field in our curriculum review as the School of Molecular and Life Sciences is committed to develop human resource capacity that can drive South Africa’s economy into the new millennium.

Why study biotechnology at the University of Limpopo?
Research interests under the Biotechnology niche area are focussed on utilizing the fauna and flora in the Limpopo Province of South Africa to develop new and innovative products that can enhance the quality of life of the inhabitants in the area.  Research areas in the Biotechnology field include the isolation and improvement of industrially important enzymes and oils obtained from microorganisms in the region, the bio-control of pests to reduce crop damage and increase production, the development of the Marula plant up to economical viability, the screening of plants for anti-microbial and anti-cancer drugs, and the isolation and characterization of microbes from harsh environments for utilization in industrial processes.

A newly developed undergraduate programme has been established at the University of Limpopo which focuses on industrial biotechnology.  Biotechnology is a two year major subject and can only be taken in the second year of study.  Entry assumptions for Biotechnology modules are: Chem101 and 102, or Chem 110 and 120, as well as BIOS 101.  BIOS 102 and BIOS 103 will give students an added advantage.  Microbiology or Biochemistry complement this subject well and can be taken as individual major subjects, or as a combination of the two, following the Biotechnology programme depending on your interests.  Subjects such as Botany and Zoology are also good second majors.

Career opportunities
Biotechnologists are sought after in various food and beverage industries.  They play an important role in the development of new products into the industry as well as in the improvement of many existing products.  Biotechnologists will also find careers which overlap those in Biochemistry and Microbiology mentioned above.