Our goal: Team-focused training that merges biology and engineering and fosters entrepreneurial skill to move lab discoveries to the field or market.

Education and Training Program Path. Key training components for a typical trainee.

The critical need to improve the environmental resilience of plants and the rapid growth of the phytochemical industry has placed high demands on workforce availability and training. Plants3D will provide trainees with a broad range of expertise, extending beyond research skills, to enable them to enter a range of industries.

Students matriculated in a UCR graduate program for a PhD or MS degree may participate. The primary graduate programs of participants are:

Coursework and Plants3D activities include:

  • Product Design & Entrepreneur Course including translation to the biotech/industrial scale to satisfy a grad program “Specialization” requirement (PhD/MS, Yr 1, Spring, for all). Spring 2021 Course
  • A Foundation course outside main discipline as the one “added” grad course: For biologists, e.g. mass & energy balances; and for engineers/informaticists, e.g., plant biology (PhD/MS, Year 1).
  • Annual Retreat and Design Competition catalyzing feasible cutting-edge interactive projects (Fall of each year). 2019 Retreat 2020 Retreat
  • Data Science training (i.e., bioinformatics, modeling) through coursework requirements/options of graduate program, IIGB workshops, and participation of data science research faculty (throughout).
  • Science Communication training and practice integrated into the Product Design & Entrepreneur Course and workshops for communication to specialized and lay audiences (throughout).
  • 2+ trainee projects guided by mentors from biology and engineering with Advisory Board input.
  • Industrial internship selected with PI and program guidance (PhD, Year 3 or 4; MS as feasible).

Product Design & Entrepreneur Course

Led by two faculty (one biologist / one engineer) with participation of an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (lecturer) with industry experience from UCR’s Entrepreneurial Proof-of- Concept and Innovation Center (EPIC). The course will guide students through the discovery, design and deployment of plant and industrial biotechnologies that address grand challenges through integration of plant/microbe biology, synthetic biology, sensor technology and bioprocessing. This interactive course will use convergence practices to tackle a scientific challenge that meets the needs of an end user/society. Students will co-create a shared knowledge bank and solution strategy that is built from tools and approaches from multiple disciplines. Interaction activities will be formal and informal.

In the Discovery Phase, students will actively explore plant-based solutions through critical analysis of case studies: (1) Synthetic Biology: engineering of plant secondary metabolite pathways for the production of commodity chemicals and pharmaceuticals in microbes (i.e., 1,4-butanediol, opioids); (2) Crop Improvement: enhancing abiotic and biotic stress resilience (i.e., manipulation of ABA signaling through receptor design of cell-specific metabolism to fine-tune energy sensing and sink strength to enhance drought resilience or effective gene regulation for pathogen resistance).

In the Product Design Phase, teams of 3-4 engineering/biology Fellows/Associates/others will be provided a nascent project/product concept developed by two Participant faculty and pre-vetted by the Plants3D Advisory Board, whose experience in commercialization will be critical for assessment in promoting iterative improvement. Cohort-based team projects should maximize the development of successful long-term collaborative and convergent research endeavors supervised by two or more faculty. Students will learn the basics of process selection, product manufacturing approaches, techno- economic analysis, intellectual property practices and business model development. This period will include guest lectures and activities in Marketing, Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship and Ethics. Trainees will consider the needs of the end users (industry/farmer) and product market fit through direct communication with potential stakeholders.

For evaluation of processing alternatives, mass and energy balances and costing, students will be taught the use of SuperPro Designer™️, aiding prototype development to market deployment. Instruction by an Entrepreneur-in-Residence or industrial advisors will provide exposure to “the business of science”.

In the final Presentation Phase, teams will receive a constructive critique by an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and advisors, with a final presentation to a broader audience. This course will sustain a path for convergence training and entrepreneurship to be cultivated by our EPIC and NSF I-Corps programs. Integral to the course will be communication training, including rubric-based feedback to individuals.

Course Syllabus (draft) for Spring 2021

Industrial Internships

A core training element will be a practical internship e.g. in ag/microbial biotech, synthetic biology, government agency or patent law firm. These will be for 2-3 months, providing work experience outside academia, in some cases relevant to student projects. It will involve an application ascertaining research, skill-sets and career goals. Internships will take place after the Qualifying/Proficiency Exam and will be required for all Fellows and local placement will be possible. The internship will commence with a short proposal that outlines experiential objectives and end with summary (company restrictions may apply). Fellows will have a designated industrial mentor during their internship. (PhDs, summer of Year 2 or 3; internships for Associates as a broader impact). Please contact Harvey Blanch or Julia Bailey-Serres to discuss your internship possibilities.

Welcome to the Plants3D cohorts