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History

The Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology belongs to the School of Health Sciences, along with the Departments of Medicine and Veterinary Science. The Department was founded in 2000 according to the Presidential Decree 82/2000. The organization of the administration and the development of the undergraduate course of the Department were financially supported by the Reconstruction Programs EPEAEK I and EPEAEK II, managed by the European Union and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
The Department enrolled the first students in September 2000. Nowadays, the Department numbers 506 undergraduate students, 100 MSc students and 32 Ph.D. students, while there are already 412 graduates and 28 PhD have been awarded.
Developing a sound curriculum and offering a high level undergraduate education were the main pursuit of the Department in these first years of operation. In that direction, existing facilities were redesigned to meet the standards for accommodating the Department's activities, a new library was organized with new titles and subscriptions to scientific periodicals in the field of biochemistry and biotechnology, and modern teaching material (electronic presentations, notes and coursebooks) was specially designed and developed to include the latest achievements in the field.

 

 

 

ESTABLISHMENT - DEVELOPMENT - PROFILE

DEPARTMENT OF BIOCHEMISTRY and BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology is the first department in Greece with a relevant subject. In a century which, by general consent, will be marked by developments in the analysis and understanding of how the genetic material of living organisms functions as well as by the implications of the shocking potential of its directed modification on a chemical level, the department is asked to supply the Greek society with scientists suitably qualified to comprehend and consolidate the wide range of possibilities that biochemistry and biotechnology have and meet the demands these new technologies impose.

In Greece, unlike other developed European countries, investments in biotechnological enterprises are scarce and one of the reasons is lack of specialized biotechnologists. Training such scientists will cover a gap in the labor market. The department aspires to offer high-level scientific training and hopes to create a generation of scientists with direct perception, from the very first stages of their training, of the demands and problems of the productive Greek enterprises or organizations related to the subject. In domains such as Biochemistry, Biotechnology, and Genetic Engineering, in which scientific developments are rapid, the department considers prompt and effective updating of its undergraduates as an integral part of the teaching procedure. In a labor environment that keeps getting more and more competitive, graduates of the department should be productive immediately after graduation and able to offer pioneering and fast solutions to productive problems of the country in order for the Greek economy to become competitive.

Being the first department in Greece in the domain of Biotechnology, it was loaded with the heavy burden of creating a high level curriculum equivalent to respective curricula from other developed countries and, at the same time, catering to the specificities and priorities of Greek production.

 

The need for establishing a Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology

Unlike the rest of the European Union countries, where degrees of biochemistry have been granted for four decades and those of biotechnology for one decade, in Greece there had been no university department offering such degrees at the undergraduate level. Yet the demand for such training exists, a fact that is substantiated by the large number of secondary education graduates who seek to obtain relevant degrees in universities abroad. (Indicatively, it can be mentioned that in only three of the universities in Great Britain there are at present 40 Greek students attending courses in the Biochemistry departments.) The Official State Centre for Foreign Degrees Recognition (DOATAP) accredits biochemistry degrees from abroad as equivalent to degrees in science form Greek universities in terms of educational level but not corresponding in terms of "content" of studies.

In 1998, the Universities of Thessaly and of Ioannina began the Extended University Programs in Medical Biochemistry and Biochemistry, respectively. Both programs attracted a large number of applicants (more than 1400 applications for only 60 positions in the first academic trimester alone). Therefore the need for establishing a conventional academic Department of Biochemistry became apparent.

The Departments dedicated to subjects where biotechnological applications can be put into practice (e.g. Agronomy, Pharmacy, Medicine, Veterinary Science) may offer some training in Biotechnology (a rapidly advancing science), but this is not the best solution . The burden of the undergraduate curricula of these departments is so heavy, that does not allow an in depth training of Biotechnology, considering that the majority of their graduates will not follow a carrier in this direction. Therefore in most European countries, Biotechnology degrees are granted by Departments of Biochemistry

The benefits of establishing a Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology are:  a) education of scientists capable of dealing with current issues in the fields of Biochemistry and Biotechnology in order to support the current requirements of greek society and economy b) to avert the financially unprofitable importation of foreign scientific personnel and c) contribution to long term development of rapidly advancing fields that serve the current economical and social needs.

The University of Thessaly offers a suitable basis for the development of a Biochemistry and Biotechnology Department, since the main Departments that deal with biochemical and biotechnological applications are included in the academic structure of the University of Thessaly (Department of Agronomy in Volos, Department of Medicine in Larissa and Department of Veterinary Science in Karditsa), with which the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology has established close collaboration in teaching as well as in research.

The Department's graduates are expected to be easily incorporated in the labor market since there is great demand for qualified personnel in Biochemistry and Biotechnology. Some examples of carrier prospects include:

  • Enterprises (both in private and public sector) offering health related diagnostic services
  • Staffing of quality control laboratories in the food industry
  • Staffing of pharmaceutical companies
  • Staffing of small industry enterprises producing new biotechnological items

 

The Department's Profile

The Department was founded in 2000 according to the Presidential Decree 82/2000 and enrolled its first students in September 2000. The organization of the administration and the development of the undergraduate course of the Department were financially supported by the Reconstruction Programs EPEAEK I and EPEAEK II, managed by the European Union and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, as well as by the University of Thessaly, under the framework of its Operational Programme for expansion of its academic profile.

The Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology has already completed ten years of existence. In these ten years the Department has demonstrated a substantially high level of activities. Namely, educational material has been developed (books, lecture notes, laboratory handbooks), which was missing in greek academic bibliography and includes all the latest achievements in this rapidly advancing field. The Departments website and library have been created, including book and journal titles essential for the under- and postgraduate curriculum. Special emphasis has been given to the active involvement of the students in the educational process, as well as their preparation for the labor market demands, by performing their diploma thesis in the laboratories and by placing them in various private and public enterprises for summer jobs.

Lately, two post-graduate programs were established: "Biotechnology - Quality Assessment in Nutrition and the Environment" and "Molecular Biology and Genetics Applications - Diagnostic Markers". These post-graduate programs aim to provide training in the wide and rapidly expanding  field of biochemical and molecular biology applications on: a) developing safe novel food products, that allow for traceability and quality control along their production chain, as well as validation of their nutrition value for humans, with emphasis on their metabolism and toxicity, b) sustainable environmental management, with emphasis on biodiversity conservation, evaluation of human intervention on various ecosystems and management of events that cause decline of environmental quality.

The Department of Biochemistry & Biotechnology operates in two separate buildings, located within walking distance from the center of the city of Larissa. In the central building (26 Ploutonos st) there is the Secretariat, the Departmental Library, the Educational Laboratories, two Amphitheaters of 100- and 150-person capacity respectively, the Research Laboratories, the Staff Offices and the Canteen. The second building (Ipsilantou & Byzantiou) is used mainly for educational purposes and hosts four classrooms of 30-40 persons each and the IT laboratory.

All classrooms and amphitheaters are equipped with PCs, internet access and digital projectors.

The research facilities of the Department consist of eight research laboratories, a radioisotope laboratory, cell culture facilities, a microscopy room, a cold room and a dark room, an animal house and a plant growth chamber.

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