Plant Biology Master SLUPlant Biology for Sustainable Production. Programme image by courtesy of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.Next year will see the start of a new training programme for students who hold a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and want to continue their education, to learn to develop sustainable food products or bio-based materials using plant biology.

Plant Biology—including plant protection, breeding and biotechnology—is much believed in as a science that carrying great promise for the development of sustainable food and fuels to meet current day societal challenges: Phasing out infinite and polluting fossil oil as a raw material for everyday products, while meeting the needs of world population expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050.

The new Master’s degree programme—Plant Biology for Sustainable Production—will be given from September 2018 by the Bio4Energy partner Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), in a unique cooperation by its three campuses in northern, mid and southern Sweden. It is designed to prepare students either for a career in academic research, or in industry or the public sector.

The application opened this month to close mid-January 2018.

SLU senior lecturer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., head of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Feedstock, leads a working group appointed to lay down the study plan and contents of the two-year programme, which includes the possibility from the second year to specialise in one of the following four strands:

  • Forest Biotechnology;

  • Plant Protection and Breeding for Mitigating Climate Change;

  • Abiotic and Biotic Interactions of Cultivated Plants;

  • Genetic and Molecular Plant Biology.

The Forest Biotechnology specialisation will be given at Umeå, Sweden, in cooperation with a leading research environment and a centre, respectively: Bio4Energy and the Umeå Plant Science Centre.

The programme is open to students from across the world. While it comes with a fee for students from outside the European Economic Area, Niittylä estimates that approximately 15 such students will have the possibility of having their academic fees covered by the European Union, through an ERASMUS Mundus programme set up in collaboration between academic actors in Spain, France, Turkey and Finland.

“We are looking for students who want to be part of addressing important societal issues. These are about developing tomorrow’s food production or bio-based materials. It is about sustainable development. The students [will train to prepare] for work in research, industry or the public sector”, Niittylä said;

“We are aiming to have 30 students on the programme who want to be part of something new. They will be able to follow the first common year of lectures from any of SLU’s three campuses in Sweden [at Umeå, Uppsala or Alnarp] by video link. The lecturers will be SLU’s experts from across the country, carefully selected so as to be able to meet the pedagogical requirements for this kind of teaching”.

To date, Bio4Energy researchers contributing to the programme include Urs Fischer, Rosario García-Gil, Hannele Tuominen, Ewa Mellerowicz and Niittylä himself; all part of Bio4Energy Feedstock. Niittylä said he might call on further experts from Bio4Energy to contribute as the programme takes shape.