In the not-so-distant future, our current plants will no longer be able to satisfy our demands. In a world with polluted soil, water, and air, not to mention salty soil and water shortage, only extraordinary plants will be able to ensure man’s survival. The judicious application of biotechnology will make it possible for us to produce extraordinary plants. Even though these plants alone cannot resolve all of our existing problems, the need for their existence is clear to everyone. Neglecting the science of biotechnology in less developed countries will only exacerbate their problems. The need for biotechnology, and extensive research into the field for the purpose of producing and marketing genetically-engineered produce, is quite obvious. By learning from the past and looking ahead to the future, it can be understood that instead of arguing over whether or not to use biotechnology, we should be learning the ways in which we can benefit from its findings.

Biotechnology is defined as the application of biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products with the intention of improving the quality of human life. Biotechnology includes various techniques designed for the benefit of man with the purpose of genetically enhancing or exploiting live beings and their parts. In fact, biotechnology is a product of interaction between the two sciences of biology and technology.

In the past few decades, newly-invented techniques have significantly contributed to advancements in current research on plant sciences and the application of our current knowledge to the production of new crops. The first of these new techniques has to do with transgenesis and the culture of cells, tissues, organs, and protoplasts in tissue culture. The second technique is genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology, whose very existence and rapid progress is owed to research into microorganisms. Thanks to genetic engineering, scientists now have more accurate methods of breeding livestock and superior crops. This technology has made accurate transgenesis possible. In recent years, these two fields of research have become connected to each other through General Biotechnology; and as they have made the accurate transgenesis of genetic material possible, they can be used in various plant species. Recombinant DNA techniques have especially played an important role in explaining the basic mechanisms of plants at a molecular level. Through this technology, separating DNA fragments and studying their characteristics have been made possible, and by cloning DNA sequences in bacterial cells, these sequences can be multiplied in great numbers for analysis. Not only does recombinant DNA technology provide basic information on gene structure and expression, it also creates an opportunity for the transgenesis of genetic material and genetic material exchange between different beings. New technologies have created better means of control and transgenesis, and a specie’s special conditions are no longer considered as barriers to progress. These methods are not substitutes for traditional plant breeding techniques, but a means of achieving previously-unattainable goals.

Noticing the need for research into the field, in 1995, the Faculty of Agriculture at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad became the first faculty in Iran to offer a degree in Biotechnology. As of this writing, this faculty has an active department of Biotechnology and Plant Breeding and trains highly-professional graduates. This department currently has three faculty members with the academic rank of Professor, one Associate Professor, and three Assistant Professors. The department trains professional graduates in Agricultural Biotechnology both at the master’s and doctoral levels. This department also admits master’s students into the major of Plant Breeding, and hopes to introduce interdisciplinary branches of science according to the academic environment and job demand in the country and around the world.

In addition to training more than 100 graduates at the master’s level, close to 30 students have graduated at the doctoral level, many of whom currently teach at universities across the country. Other academic achievements include publishing more than 300 articles and 20 authored, translated and compiled books. Some of the most prominent publications have been listed below:

About: Courses and Units

Students are required to pass 32 units in master’s program in Biotechnology; some of the courses include Biochemistry, General Microbiology, Preliminary Molecular Genetics, Research Methodology, Advanced Genetics, Preliminary Plant Biotechnology, Cytogenetics, Genetic Engineering, Micropropagation, and Plant Tissue Culture. Optional courses include Advanced Computer Application in Biotechnology and Plant Breeding, seminar. Students are also required to complete a thesis (6 units).

About: Job Opportunities

Employment opportunities for Biotechnology graduates include, but are not limited to: employment at the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran, the National Genetic Engineering Research Center or other research institutes. Graduates can also work as coordinators and directors in the field of agricultural biotechnology or alternatively teach biotechnology-related courses at agricultural faculties and institutes. They can also collect, identify, and preserve microorganisms related to the field of agriculture at cell banks. Another possible activity for graduates of the field is to conduct research on biological products such as biological poisons, biological fertilizers, and valuable products used in food, agriculture, and other related industries.