23 September 1999

New Degree Course in Heidelberg: Biochemistry / Molecular Biotechnology

Improved career prospects for pharmacy graduates – University Senate unanimously in favour of the new Diplom course of study in biochemistry/molecular biotechnology – Part of the overhaul of the Faculty of Pharmacy

On 21 September 1999 the Senate of the University of Heidelberg unanimously approved the establishment of a Diplom course of study in biochemistry/molecular biotechnology. "The planned course will qualify students for professional activity in that fast-developing middle ground where biology, physics, chemistry and medicine intermingle," said Rector Prof. Jürgen Siebke. The new course is part of the ongoing restructuring of the Faculty of Pharmacy. If the Ministry of Science gives the go-ahead, the course is scheduled to start up as early as the winter term 1999/2000.

"The subject matter of the course is tailor-made for the bio-research environment in and around Heidelberg," was the comment from the Deans of the Faculties of Biology and Chemistry, Prof. Dr. Mark Stitt and Prof. Dr. Peter Comba. It offers a selected group of students the opportunity for an interdisciplinary course of study drawing on molecular biology, biophysical chemistry, bioinformatics and research on active substances and leading to synergies in these areas.

At the Senate meeting Prof. Siebke explained that the course is designed to accommodate 45 students per year, thus replacing 45 of the 90 study places available at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

After a four-term (two-year) grounding in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics/informatics, the new four-term main part of the course will offer three new subjects: research on active substances, biophysical chemistry, and informatics/functional genomics. From these students will choose one main subject and one subsidiary subject, supplementing this with a further subsidiary subject from a range of possibilities extending as far afield as law or economics. The interdisciplinary design of the new course means that the main part of it can be used as a (post)graduate course for scientists or pharmacists already in possession of a Diplom or State Examination respectively, thus further bolstering the interdisciplinary principle already operative in the "Biotechology" Postgraduate Research Group. There biologists, chemists and medical scientists work together under the aegis of the Faculty of Pharmacy.

New career prospects

Rector Siebke comments: "Of especial note is the opportunity given to graduate pharmacists to take the main course in biochemistry/molecular biotechnology and thus acquire additional scientific qualifications in a way not formerly provided for in the existing Approbationsordnung [the German regulations governing the award of a licence to practise medicine, dentistry or pharmacy]." By presenting a Diplom thesis pharmacy students can acquire the same qualifications as other scientists and thus benefit from career prospects – notably in industry – hitherto closed to them.

Major significance for the life sciences

"The new course is of major significance for the future development of the life sciences," Siebke went on, emphasizing that future biological research will be characterised by an unprecedentedly broad range of methods, thanks not least to the headlong progress being made in informatics, physics and chemistry. The high sensitivity of new measuring methods and the possibility of capturing and processing huge volumes of data mean that complex biological systems can now be scrutinised at a level of detail inconceivable only a few years ago.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221 542310, fax: 542317

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