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Perdue & UNCW discuss biotechnology

READ MORE: Perdue & UNCW discuss biotechnology
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The Governor's visit to the Marine Sciences Center on Monday included a roundtable discussion about marine biotechnology and new economy business. The gathering included educational leaders, businessmen and politicians. The focus of this discussion was on marine biotechnology and the opportunities it brings when it comes to jobs and the economy.

"We want to play a major role," said UNCW Chancellor, Rosemary DePaolo. "Not just in broadly marine science, but in the area of marine biotechnology and how to create jobs in southeastern North Carolina in that field."

That importance of job creation was a big topic during the discussion. Professors pointed out just how the marine field can affect more people than what many may think.

"One in six jobs in the country are directly related to the ocean in some way or another," said UNCW Marine Science Professor, Jeffrey Wright. "Transportation, fishing, recreational fishing, recreational tourism, conservation and the Navy; all of these things together count for one in six jobs. The economic output of the ocean is greater than the farming output in this country."

Monday's discussion also addressed what's next for marine science here in the Cape Fear. UNCW researchers want to concentrate on food, fuels and pharmaceuticals; three fields just about everyone in the room agreed have a promising future. UNCW plans on reaching out to companies who are involved in those three fields to see if a partnership can be created to enhance research and jobs.

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What are they smoking over at UNCW?

I knew that Purdue's visit would lower the university's average IQ for the day, but this story is nutty.

If one in six jobs in this country relates to the ocean, the jobs aleady exist. Why would we need to "create" more of them? How do we "create" a need for additional marine biologists, anyway?

Second, how do the jobs listed directly relate to marine sciences or marine biotechnology? I assure you that you don't need to fork $80k over to UNCW to run a purse net, get your tugboat down to Southport, check in guests at a beach hotel, or fire a Mk 48 torpedo.

Finally, I have to question the claim that "The economic output of the ocean is greater than the farming output in this country." Sure! If you include all those hotel clerks, bartenders, and the entire United States Navy in your figures, that may be true. My money says that someone representing agrarian interests could argue that since they serve vegetables in those hotel restaurants, place fruit in drinks, and serve waaaay too many canned green beans on navy ships, those people are part of the agricultural industry. The numbers can be steered in any direction at all as long as you have parochial interests, a good imagination, and no limits on what jobs you include.

Let's face it - UNCW has a fine program, but whether you choose UNCW, UC Berkely, San Diego, or Santa Barbara, Harvard, Cornell, Duke, the University of Miami or any of the many schools offering degrees in marine biology or a closely related field, you are picking a niche degree with a limited demand.

Don't be shocked when you wind up teaching high school Earth Science.