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Track in Industrial Microbial Biotechnology (IMB)

Director of Graduate Studies: Michael Johnson,


The Industrial Microbial Biotechnology (IMB) track or subplan of the Applied Biosciences GIDP is designed to prepare student for careers in the biotechnology industries where microorganisms are used as either tools for manufacturing chemical or biological products, or as environmental or agricultural agents.

Since ancient times, microorganisms have been utilized for what we now recognize as biotechnology applications, starting with beer and wine-making, leavening dough for bread and pastries, and preserving food by pickling.  The multibillion dollar modern fermentation and biocatalytic industries that grew out of these practices produce small molecule “natural products” to be used as drugs, pesticides and fine chemicals including biodegradable plastics, and provide us with amino acids, vitamins, solvents and other industrial chemicals.  Microbial fermentation and biocatalysis (the use of microorganisms as catalysts for chemical reactions) also represent our best hopes to produce sustainable, environmentally responsible biofuels, and constitute a fast growing segment of the biotechnology industry.  Microbial fermentation is also used to produce recombinant proteins as drugs or industrial enzymes, and can be used to manufacture antibodies and nucleic acids for diagnosis and treatment of diseases.  Drug discovery in the pharmaceutical and agribusiness industries, and the development of novel or cheaper industrial chemicals and reagents are unimaginable without utilizing microbial “chemical factories”.

Microorganisms are also used for environmental biotechnology applications, utilizing the unrivaled ability of microbes to biodegrade a wide variety of compounds.  Bioremediation of contaminated former industrial sites, cleanup after natural disasters like oil spills, or everyday applications like waste water treatment rely on chemical reactions catalyzed on the spot by live microorganisms.  Similarly, integrated pest management in agribusiness can take advantage of biocontrol by live microorganisms to kill or suppress microbial, insect or nematode pests in an environmentally conscious manner that does not involve toxic chemicals.

The IMB track will prepare students for gainful employment in the fermentation, biocatalysis, drug discovery and manufacture, agribusiness, chemical manufacture, and environmental biotechnology industries where experts with knowledge of microbiology, microbial genetics and biochemistry are in demand.  Just like other PSMAB tracks, the IMB track involves a strong component of developing professional skills and understanding the legal and business environment of these industries, and involves a required internship in a professional biotechnology laboratory environment.


In common with other ABS tracks, the IMB track requires the successful completion of 36 units (credit hours), within the course of a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 6 years.

The IMB track includes a wide selection of courses relevant to the mission of the PSMAB and the IMB track.  These courses are grouped into clusters.  The track has the following curricular requirements:


Science Module 15 units
Professional Preparation Module 12 units
Internship (including the Final Report) 9 units
Total 36 units

Courses recommended for the clusters of the IMB track are listed in the Student Handbook. Other classes may be substituted for the classes listed in the attached Table with the agreement of the DGS and the Advisor and the Committee of the student.  Initial selection of the appropriate courses within each cluster and for the study plan in general will be done by agreement between the student and the DGS, based on a draft plan assembled by the student and submitted to the DGS.  This plan should be based on the particular needs and interests of the student, considering the career path she or he is pursuing.  Fine tuning and other necessary changes of the course plan will be made by the Advisor and the student’s Committee, in agreement with the DGS.

Please find a list of recommended courses for Industrial Microbial Biotechnology track from the ABS Student Handbook.

Last updated 10 Feb 2022