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State Board Approves Biology Ph.D. for Fall 2006
Author: David Santen, Office of Marketing and Communications (503-725-8789)
Posted: March 17, 2006

The State Board of Higher Education this month approved a new doctoral degree program in Biology at Portland State University, effective fall 2006.

“There has been explosive growth among students who study biology at Portland State, in part due to our extraordinary faculty,” said Marvin Kaiser, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Approval of this program is an expression of the State Board’s confidence in the science teaching and research, particularly in Biology, taking place on the PSU campus. Biology faculty are well prepared to mentor the best and brightest of Oregon’s science students.”

The Ph.D. in Biology will prepare needed research biologists for the growing industry clusters that rely on biological research while enabling Portland State to attract and retain top students and faculty recruits. The Department of Biology currently offers bachelor’s and master’s programs; previously, students were only able to pursue doctoral studies in Biology through a multidisciplinary degree program in the Environmental Sciences and Resources program. The new doctorate is a 56 credit hour program, including 15 required credits of core graduate courses, 14 credits of graduate electives chosen collaboratively by the student and adviser, and 27 credits of dissertation research.

“All the members of our department are energized by the approval of this disciplinary Ph.D. in Biology,” said Stan Hillman, Biology professor and chair. “We look forward to enriching the already cutting-edge research conducted by our department.”

The Biology Ph.D. builds on Portland State University’s focus in the sciences, and is supported by faculty in biology and affiliated fields who have expanded research substantially in recent years; research expenditures in the Department of Biology have increased four-fold over just the past five years. During that time the department has developed core research groups of faculty focused on:
• Microbial life in extreme environments at the molecular and ecological level;
• Environmental and pathophysiological adaptation at the cellular/systems physiology level;
• Ecological and evolutionary processes and the consequences of interactions between organisms and their environment; and,
• Population and genetic approaches to understanding environmental and community relations of organisms.

“This new Biology Ph.D. program will better serve our students, faculty and the Portland community,” said Ken Stedman, assistant professor of Biology. “It will allow us to attract excellent students both locally and internationally to PSU. Moreover, it will help develop future leaders in research biology in not only these core areas of excellence but also train the students for a productive research career.”

An external review team of distinguished faculty from the University of Nevada–Las Vegas, Stanford and the University of Washington, offered a very strong review noting that, “Two of the major new commercial technologies are in the biological sciences: biotechnology and nanotechnology. Students who obtain their Ph.D. in Biology find ample employment opportunities in these areas,” particularly in major urban settings such as Portland, Ore.

The University anticipates enrollment in the Ph.D. program to grow to 30 students within five years, awarding six degrees annually. The University will continue to offer the multidisciplinary doctorate in Environmental Sciences. In 2005, Portland State awarded a total of 55 doctorates, the highest number in its history.

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Ken Stedman (503-725-3253)
Department of Biology

For Immediate Release (#06-043)