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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Teachers, public can take URI biotechnology class for free

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Amgen Foundation grant helps educate residents about growing field

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 7, 2004 -- A University of Rhode Island course on "Issues in Biotechnology" is open to the public for free, thanks in part to a grant from the Amgen Foundation to help educate students and the public about this growing field. The grant also provides free graduate credit to high school and middle school teachers who take the course.

The semester-long class begins Sept. 8 with an introduction, registration and an organizational meeting. Class lectures begin Sept. 15 and run every Wednesday evening through Dec. 8 from 6 to 9:45 p.m. in the Barry Marks Auditorium in the Chafee Social Science Center on the URI Kingston campus.

"We're taking this very complicated subject and making it accessible to the public because it is so socially relevant today. People don't realize the impact it has on their daily lives, so we're trying to fill that knowledge gap," said Albert Kausch, URI adjunct professor of molecular biology and president of, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about biotechnology.

The class is a general survey of recent advances in biology as it relates to biotechnology, including discussions of DNA, gene cloning, stem cells, ethical issues, career opportunities, and applications in medicine, forensics, cancer, agriculture, marine and other fields. Weekly lectures, discussions and demonstrations will include guest speakers from around the country.

"Everybody should have a working knowledge of this topic," said Kausch, who also serves as vice president of research at Hybrigene Inc., a West Kingston-based biotechnology company. "I even encourage high school students to sign up, too. We've had them in the class before, and they often challenge themselves to do as well or better than the undergraduates."

The Amgen Foundation has provided a $98,000, two-year grant to help fund the course. In addition to supporting guest speakers and course materials, the grant will fund the videotaping of each class session for later broadcast on public access television. A DVD will also be created of each class that will be available to teachers, along with additional educational materials, for use in the classroom.

The general public is admitted free to the course, but registrants do not receive college credit. Space is limited, so call the URI Special Programs Office at 277-5200 to register. The first thirty-five middle and high school teachers to register can receive credit through URI for free. Interested teachers should contact Christine Dolan at 874-4108 or email For more information or to view the course syllabus, visit

The class will be repeated during the spring semester in a similar format and will also be open to the public.