CORVALLIS - The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has given $400,000 to Oregon State University to develop four new professional master's degree programs in applied science that should help provide more of the highly trained specialists needed by Pacific Northwest business and industry.

The new degrees, which should be fully developed and operational by fall 2003, will be in the fields of applied biotechnology; applied physics; environmental science; and biological quality systems analysis. The new grant will support program development, recruiting, faculty work and internship development, and the degrees themselves are planned to be largely self-supporting on a long-term basis.

"The Sloan Foundation sought OSU's involvement in this program because of our strengths in many scientific fields and their desire to train more graduates in applied sciences," said Stella Coakley, professor and head of the OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. "Each of these programs will fit the fairly specific needs of various industries in the Pacific Northwest, and we expect there will be pretty strong student interest in these degrees. There are jobs waiting for graduates in these fields."

From two to four industry affiliates will help plan the needed curriculum for each of the programs and assist in providing internships to the students who take them, Coakley said. The first meeting of these new educational partners will be held in June.

The degree in applied biotechnology will be especially useful to one of the Pacific Northwest's fastest growing industries, for instance, and the degree in biological quality systems analysis will provide graduates who are sought by the pharmaceutical, food and microbiology industries.

Another innovative feature of the program will be the inclusion of a required three-to-six-month internship in industry for each graduate. The internship will largely replace the laboratory research and thesis that are usually done by students getting a master's degree in the sciences who plan to pursue careers in research. The internship feature will also keep the programs more affordable and increase OSU's capacity to train more graduate students in the applied sciences, Coakley said.

Once developed and implemented, this new approach to "applied" graduate degrees should also form a working model for other OSU departments within the sciences to use in creating more such programs, Coakley said. Because of existing non-thesis degree programs at OSU that can be adapted for use in this new initiative, only one of the new degrees will require later approval by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education before it is implemented, she said.

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Stella Coakley, 541-737-5264