New industrial technology degree option available for students

A student operates an apple proccessor
Biological and biomanufacturing systems technology students have the option to customize their experiences, selecting electives like food science and agronomy to have a better understanding of the processes they will be a part of. Photo courtesy of Kurt Rosentrater.

By Madelyn Ostendorf

A new degree option was introduced within the industrial technology major in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) that will prepare students to be manufacturing and systems maintenance experts. Upon graduation, the students will be prepared to enter careers that support biological and biomanufacturing systems in our ever-evolving world.

The biological and biomanufacturing systems technology (BBST) option became available to students this semester. It joins the existing manufacturing and occupational safety options within the industrial technology major, all involving hands-on coursework that culminates with a senior-year capstone project. Students work with industry professionals during this capstone project to solve a problem.

The BBST option came about through conversations with brewing and distilling industry experts, who noticed the growing need for students with hands-on experience along with a solid knowledge of industrial biology and chemistry applications. Gretchen Mosher, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and chair of ABE’s Technology Curriculum Committee, said talks with other industries indicated an emerging need for the same specialization in students.

“There's a need for management of machinery, and these students would be really well suited to that kind of work - a mix between the technology and management,” Mosher said. “That's the exciting part; there's a lot of places BBST can take you.”

The BBST degree option is a pathway to careers of the future, said Kurt Rosentrater, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and the possibilities are endless in terms of career applications.

“There is a gap in the industry,” Rosentrater said. “Often, employees end up learning these things on the job. This new option is able to teach and prepare students to wear many hats before stepping foot on the job.”

BBST is a customizable option, with students having the opportunity to take classes based on the industry they want to pursue. Those interested in distilling and brewing might take biology, chemistry and microbiology classes, while those wanting to do feed production may take animal science and feed science courses.

“One of the great things about this option is if you know exactly what you want to do, great. We can help you get there,” Rosentrater said. “If you are still figuring it out, great. We can help you get where you are going. Our students end up doing things in their careers that they had no idea they were going to do and work for companies they had no idea existed.”

Three students are part of the inaugural semester of the BBST option. Julia Barajas, sophomore in industrial technology, said she was excited about the new option.

“It brings together all the things I have been interested in since I started at Iowa State,” Barajas said. “With BBST, there are so many career opportunities you could pursue. I am more interested in the food engineering and biofuels aspect of the option. Right now, I am currently applying for internships, and I’ve accepted two interviews so far from Ag Processing Inc. and Frito-Lay.”