Strategic Plan

Our Strategic Plan
Our Strategic Plan

We believe in excellence and growth.

Read our Vision for Excellence, 2017-2022

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

The academic programs in the Department of Biochemistry and Center for Biological Chemistry are directed at providing the foundation required for careers in industry, research, education, engineering, health professions or other interdisciplinary fields. The overarching goal is the continued improvement of high quality educational programs in biochemistry directed to equip students with competitive and applicable skills that are flexible and relevant to attain their career goals.

I. Undergraduate Program of Study – Goals:

Maintain content excellence while strengthening pedagogy and course offerings in the undergraduate program in biochemistry.

Strengthen the biochemistry curriculum with the overarching goal of mastery in the discipline as expected upon graduation using the Foundational Concepts and Skills as defined by ASBMB as a guide:

  • Energy:  Energy is required by and transformed in biological systems.
  • Structure and Function:  Macromolecular structure determines function and regulation.
  • Information Storage:  Information storage and flow are dynamic and interactive.
  • Skills: Discovery requires objective measurement, quantitative analysis and clear communication.

In response to ongoing assessment, adjust and refine the biochemistry curriculum using new pedagogical strategies and incorporating emerging areas of modern biochemistry.  Current goals include the introduction of systems biology, computational biology and modeling and data science in the undergraduate curriculum.  

Continue to be proactive in undergraduate student recruitment that will increase the number of top-tier science students selecting biochemistry as their major. Implement retention efforts to enhance academic advising for all biochemistry students. 

Continue to enhance strategies for retention and advising. This will include continued assessment of student understanding of core concepts in biochemistry and satisfaction in the major at the introductory, mid-point and end of the program.

Deploy proactive strategies to include current research trends in biochemistry, and in particular recent seminal findings, into classes at all undergraduate levels.

Increase research opportunities and excellence for undergraduate students and visibility for experiential learning.  This will continue the traditions of promoting undergraduate research through support from UCARE and Agricultural Research Division Undergraduate Student Research programs.

II. Service Courses in Undergraduate Programs of Study – Goals:

Enhance service biochemistry courses required for different undergraduate programs in the molecular life sciences that meet the strategic needs of those academic programs.

Offer junior- and senior-level courses in advanced biochemistry methods and biochemical informatics to meet the career goals of undergraduate students that reflect the changing needs of the discipline

 

III. Graduate Program in the Center for Biological Chemistry – Goals:

Maintain excellence of the training environment in cutting-edge research in biochemistry directed to provide an advanced foundation in biochemistry required for careers in industry, research, and education. 

Promote individualized programs of study that includes training in proteins, enzymes, metabolism, transcriptional regulation, molecular genetics and computational biology; is dynamic based on new advances in the discipline; and consistent in training next generation scientists and researchers.

Continue to modify the graduate curriculum to reflect current trends in the discipline while grounding the educational experience in the broad foundations of biochemistry

Align recruitment efforts in the Center for Biological Chemistry graduate program to university-wide programs in the molecular life sciences including the Complex Biosystems program.  This will include enhancing graduate training through interdisciplinary collaborations and the acquisition of training grants using plant, animal and microbial model systems in key areas of research

 

IV. Postdoctoral Training Program in Biochemistry – Goals:

Enhance the postdoctoral training program in biochemistry by providing research-intensive training in focused areas of biochemistry and the requisite environment to develop independent careers as required for industry, research, and academics. The overarching goal of these efforts is directed to advance career paths while contributing to the research programs in individual laboratories.

Provide research-intensive training in biochemistry to include new trends, strengthen expertise in the discipline, and develop scientific independence.

Enhance postdoctoral training program through proactive mentoring.  This will include promoting entrepreneurship and non-academic career paths in as part of their training.

 

V. Strengthen Faculty Teaching Quality and Skills – Goals:

Continue to promote excellence in teaching, which is a hallmark of Department of Biochemistry.  To maintain this excellence, members of established and early career faculty members will be encouraged to enroll in specific programs to advance their teaching and pedagogical skills.  

Establish ongoing peer-review programs (faculty by faculty) of teaching that is directed to developing a knowledge-based and supportive teaching environment.

RESEARCH

Basic and translational research using plant, animal and microbial model systems is a defining feature of the Department of Biochemistry.  Biochemistry research programs advance knowledge, contribute to the development of intellectual property, and provide novel platforms for economic development.  Key research strengths in the department are metabolism and metabolic engineering, molecular mechanisms of disease, and structural and physical biochemistry that are linked to programs in the university research centers (Plant Science Innovation, Redox Biology, Root and Rhizobiome Innovation, Integrated Biomolecular Communication, Virology and Prevention of Obesity-related Diseases). Several members of the faculty have collaborations within the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and receive funding through the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research. The research strengths in biochemistry overlap and are integrated with systems biology and biochemical informatics. These interrelated strengths contribute to innovative research and training programs that promote excellence.  It is expected these efforts will continue to expand through collaborative projects that capitalize on expertise in chemical and biosystems engineering, nanomaterials, physics, mathematics, and computer science.  The high impact of the research programs in the Department of Biochemistry will continue to include multi-investigator and collaborative grants and program project grants that will lead to seminal discoveries as evidenced by publications in top tier journals, invited presentations at national/international meetings, and awards and honors.

 

I.  Metabolism and Metabolic Engineering – Goals:

Continue to advance and strengthen basic and translational research programs in metabolism and metabolic engineering, and especially using plant and microbial systems.  Over the past several years, there has been a coalescence of multidisciplinary research teams, including faculty in the Centers for Plant Science Innovation and Root and Rhizobiome Innovation, Redox Biology Center and Department of Biochemistry who are applying knowledge of metabolism to solve complex biological problems using both systems and synthetic biology approaches.

 

II.  Molecular Mechanisms of Disease – Goals:

Enhance research programs in molecular mechanisms of disease continue to gain prominence in the Department of Biochemistry, facilitated in part through collaborations and infrastructural development from the Redox Biology Center and Centers for Virology, Integrated Biomolecular Communication and Plant Science Innovation.  A significant number of individual and multidisciplinary research teams include collaborations with faculty from multiple departments at the University of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska Medical Center and address a variety of questions broadly related to the pathophysiology of disease.

 

III. Structural and Biophysical Chemistry – Goals:

Continue to strengthen research programs focused on structural and biophysical chemistry as central strengths of the Department of Biochemistry.  Understanding of the molecular underpinnings of biological function is a core element of a vibrant biochemistry program, and provides a framework to develop novel therapeutics and direct metabolic engineering efforts.  The Redox Biology Center and Center for Biotechnology in conjunction with the Department of Biochemistry has invested heavily to maintain this unique research approach on campus, to complement phenomenological and discovery based programs. 

 

IV. Integration of Systems Biology, Translational Biochemistry and Biochemical Informatics – Goals:

To promote continued research success, link research programs in metabolism and metabolic engineering, molecular mechanisms of disease, and structural and biophysical chemistry must be able to seamlessly integrate interdisciplinary experimental results into increasingly complex and dynamic system models in order to address biological questions that have broad impact on society, such as improving human health, producing renewable fuels, and increasing crop productivity. Integrated into this goal of integration of systems biology and biochemical informatics as key components of our education program is to ensure students attain skills that are fully competitive in tomorrow’s workforce

FACULTY RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

The Department of Biochemistry remains committed to attracting, maintaining, and promoting a diverse faculty that is reflective of the demographics of this STEM discipline.  This necessarily requires the department to embrace a work-life balance; maintain fair and unbiased recruitment strategies; enhance and improve faculty mentoring; and develop succession strategies to maintain strong and proactive departmental leadership.

 

I. Faculty Recruitment – Goals:

The Department of Biochemistry is in a period of significant growth coincident with the acquisition of new resources within IANR and the broader the university.  An important goal of continued recruitment is alignment with collaborative teams addressing complex problems that require multidisciplinary approaches.  The new faculty members of biochemistry continue embraces this ideal – in Healthy Humans, Computational Systems, Sustainable Agricultural and Natural Resource Systems, Stress Biology and Economic Vitality. 

 

II. Faculty Mentoring – Goals:

To maintain and extend the level of success, the Department of Biochemistry has formalized faculty mentoring for early- and mid-career faculty.

 

III. Faculty Retention – Goals:

The Department of Biochemistry will continue to encourage and promote community and collegiality to strengthen the fabric of the department; develop strategies for faculty advancement that include nominations for Honors and Awards (local/national/international) in a timely manner so that deadlines are met; and broadly market the research awards and honor obtained by members of the faculty. The department will continue to emphasize the importance of the work-life balance in faculty career development.

SERVICE AND OUTREACH

I. Embrace Science Literacy as Part of Departmental Culture – Goals:

The Department of Biochemistry is dedicated to an engaging, interactive curriculum, excellent research quality, and the caliber of its graduates.  The department’s academic programs provide students with the foundation in biochemistry necessary for their pursuit of careers in industry, research, education, engineering, health professions or other interdisciplinary fields.  The research programs in biochemistry investigate an array of important questions united in focus by exploring the functions of macromolecules in fundamental biological processes, enhancing the quality of education’ science literacy plan provides a coordinated method of communicating our excellence in research to our students, the general public, and to learners at every level.  The department uses interdisciplinary approaches in basic and translational science in biochemistry and molecular biology. This will also be used to communicate cutting-edge research to the public, educators, students, and other constituencies.

 

II. Promote External Visibility of Department of Biochemistry – Goals:

Develop a roadmap for the Department of Biochemistry in advancing the discipline and programs both within the university and as importantly outside the university including UNMC.  Of particular importance will be interactions with other departments, centers and programs within the university, productive relationships to the private sector proactive engagement with the University of Nebraska Foundation.