July 19, 2019

Dixie State University’s New Biotech Certificate Prepares Students to Meet Workforce Needs

By Brett Coleman 


Coming together to further growth, innovation, and education that will help meet southern Utah’s unique and growing economic needs, the communities of Washington County and Dixie State University are working to train the future leaders of the biotechnology sector. 

Biotechnology, an industry that focuses on the use of cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that improve individuals’ lives and the health of the planet, drives the development of everything from healthcare products and vaccines to a greater yield in food production. With continued growth globally, nationally, and even in southern Utah, biotech is an industry that calls for attention. As a result, Dixie State University and community biotech firms together are at the forefront of meeting the educational demands for the budding industry in Washington County.

Beginning this fall semester, DSU will continue preparing students for the industry by offering a new Certificate in Biotechnology. This certificate will instill a solid foundation in students and equip them with the needed skill set to enter the industry at entry-level jobs. These positions will allow students to work in a fast-paced industry while pursuing further education in biotechnology and other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. 

In developing the certificate program, Dr. Erin O’Brien, chair of the DSU Biological Sciences Department, shared that DSU focused on the immediate needs of the community. “We had a group of local CEOs come together from different biotech firms and from Intermountain Healthcare,” O’Brien said. “Now the program is based on their feedback, and we know students are getting the skills that they need for these positions.” 

Not only is the program comprehensive in meeting the needs of local employers, it is also academically rigorous. In fact, the certificate’s core classes are all required for majors in the sciences. Based on feedback from industry employees, the program was developed to allow students to have a survey of all the STEM fields, allowing for exploration in biology, computer programming, and chemistry while developing general lab skills. 

“It allows them to dabble in programming,” O’Brien said. “They can do math. They can do chemistry. They can figure out what they like without losing time.” 

With this structure, students can earn credits toward both the certificate and potential associate and baccalaureate degrees at the same time. The biotech certificate requires twenty-one credits for completion, making it doable not only for incoming freshmen and current university students, but also for high school students taking concurrent enrollment courses. The program even allows those currently working full time to return to school and finish the certification through DSU.

Registration for classes necessary for the Certificate in Biotechnology as well as Dixie State University’s other undergraduate classes is open until the fall semester begins on Aug. 19. Apply at admissions.dixie.edu

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