April 2012

Life Sciences image

The importance of the life sciences

Scientific discoveries in the life sciences impact our lives every day. The results of biotechnology research are in the production and processing of the food we eat, the medicines we take to prevent and cure disease, and in the ethanol and biodiesel we use to fuel our cars and trucks. Yet still I am frequently asked, “What exactly are the life sciences?”

An organism can be made up of one cell—an Ostrich egg is the largest single-celled organism, but most are invisible to the naked eye—or tens of trillions of cells, like the human body. Cells work to keep the body alive, allow it to reproduce, cooperate (or in some cases antagonize) for survival, and to adapt to changing environments.

These biomolecular processes and this microscopic universe are the basis for research in the life sciences, and this research translates into innovations that lead to new products that create jobs to make our world more prosperous, healthier, safer and greener.

More than 572 biotechnology companies and institutions employ 13,520 people with an average annual wage of $53, 275 in South Carolina. The biotechnology industry is a driver of economic growth in South Carolina and it is critical that we supply qualified graduates to meet industry demands in biotechnology, as well as in every industry.

In addition, life sciences researchers today are working on solving the enormous challenges of the future, including adapting to climate change, feeding a growing world population, ensuring that our natural resources will continue to provide for future generations, and finding cures for disease. For example, CAFLS scientists are working to find treatments and cures for cancer, neglected tropical diseases, removing toxins from the environment, and developing agricultural plants that will increase the world’s food supply.

There is always an element of mystery in the study of the life sciences. Something magical that allows scientists to admire what Nature is—and how fundamental enzymes and chemical reactions work to create who we are. These are the challenges that life scientists don’t mind staying awake at night thinking about.

The Life Sciences Center — Opening in January 2013

The new Life Sciences Center will put Clemson at the forefront of life science research, education and discovery in South Carolina. The biotech industry is a fast growing sector of the knowledge/innovation economy in South Carolina, nationwide and globally. Biotechnology and Biomedicine are academic emphasis areas for Clemson.  

For CAFLS, our goal is to create a new model for an interdisciplinary college of bio-based sciences. The new Life Sciences Center is a world class-research and teaching facility that has been designed to enhance collaboration and interdisciplinary research. The new building is not only a new Clemson landmark—it is a symbol of our commitment to 21st century scientific progress and discovery for the College and the University.


Tom Scott, PhD
Dean, College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences


Photo curtesy of National Science Foundation


February 2012

This week Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) released an Action Plan for the education and training of the next generation of scientists, and the future of agriculture.

The USDA plan presents a bold vision that calls for  “…a new compact with America—its States, its agricultural producers, its consumers, its colleges and universities, and the private sector—to bring into existence a renewed agricultural enterprise capable of feeding the world and inventing new technologies and energy sources needed in the decades to come.”

“It also means laying the foundation for a strong economic future by attracting the next generation of students into the field of agricultural sciences and research—including a spectrum of biological, biochemical, biophysical, economic, food science, climatological, environmental, and soil sciences—to build a pipeline of talent that keeps America leading the world’s agricultural innovation.” 

The plan is based on seven goals:

  • Goal 1. Local and Global Food Supply and Security
    • Crop and Animal Production
    • Crop and Animal Health
    • Crop and Animal Genetics, Genomics, Genetic Resources, and Biotechnology
    • Consumer and Industry Outreach, Policy, Markets, and Trade
  • Goal 2. Responding to Climate and Energy Needs
    • Responding to Climate Variability
    • Bioenergy/Biofuels and Biobased Products
  • Goal 3. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
    • Water Availability: Quality and Quantity
    • Landscape-Scale Conservation and Management
  • Goal 4. Nutrition and Childhood Obesity
  • Goal 5. Food Safety
  • Goal 6. Education and Science Literacy
  • Goal 7. Rural Prosperity/Rural-Urban Interdependence

This plan and these goals are not only important for the United States and the world, they are important to all of us in the College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences (CAFLS). Our faculty, staff and students are involved in education, research and service in every one of these areas. Close alignment with these goals will keep us a vital USDA partner and make Clemson and CAFLS more competitive for USDA support.

Our vision at CAFLS is also big and bold. We know the challenges facing us—feeding a global population of nearly 7 billion people by 2050; preparing for the impacts of climate change; preserving our natural resource base for present needs and for future generations; keeping the food supply safe; pioneering in the biomedical sciences; and most important of all, educating our talented students to meet these challenges.

The College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences (CAFLS) will be a new model for a 21st century, multi-disciplinary college of life-based sciences. CAFLS will excel in the areas of basic and applied science in food safety and security; environmental conservation and restoration; biomedicine and nutrition; biotechnology; and sustainable agriculture. The common biological basis of the disciplines of agriculture, forestry and life sciences provides a strategic advantage to accomplish these goals through interdisciplinary programs and by optimizing the use of resources.

The College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences will:

  • Transform education beyond traditional teaching methods to include more faculty-mentored, student-centered, problem-based and experiential learning.
  • Focus faculty research on interdisciplinary teams within CAFLS, Clemson University and other institutions of higher education. Public/private partnerships will bring faculty and students face-to-face with the real world challenges of industry and the public sector.
  • Extend the reach of educational resources using direct interaction and information technology to communities and organizations in need at the local, national and global levels.

I congratulate Dr. Woteki and the United States Department of Agriculture for this Action Plan. We look forward to working with them as a partner to implement this shared vision.


Tom Scott, PhD
Dean, College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences

December 2011

2011 has been a year of change for the College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences. The changes and transition that we have gone through have been difficult at times.  Recent Town Hall meetings have brought to my attention issues of great importance that relate to the core of what we are as a college within the University.  These meetings have stimulated healthy discussions about the commitment of Clemson University to agriculture, forestry and life sciences.

Continued dialogue, transparency, and communication will lead CAFLS forward in 2012. With this column I commit to addressing issues on a regular basis that are of interest and concern to faculty, staff, students, and alumni. In addition, I will invite faculty, staff and students to a series of informal "brown bag" lunches beginning in January. Details will follow early in the New Year.

Agriculture, forestry and life sciences are more important today than ever before.  We are entrusted with the responsibility to educate students for the 21st century who will face many challenges to feed, clothe, provide shelter, address health of people, and protect our environment.  The world population is expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050.  We will need more college graduates to address the issues that will bear upon us all. 

The mission of the College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences is to support Clemson University, the land grant university of South Carolina, in its ongoing and diverse efforts in education, research, and public service to benefit the people of South Carolina, the nation and the world. It is important for this college and the University to adhere to its land grant roots and advance the knowledge base for the future success of all people.

While many aspects of agriculture have changed since Thomas Green Clemson’s time, the basics have not—food and fiber need to be produced and distributed. Fulfillment of these objectives requires the blending of our expertise across the College.  We will call upon our faculty and staff members to collaborate in our delivery of education leading to scientific discovery and application to economic development. We will share and distribute that knowledge through our graduates who will enter the workforce to lead South Carolina forward to greater heights of social and economic status.

Higher education and land grant universities across the country have faced severe budget cuts at the state level. Clemson University has had budget cuts greater than many others. CAFLS has made changes in organizational structure in response to this fiscal pressure.  Through it all, we have maintained the core academic programs in agriculture, forestry and life sciences.  We have defined focus areas in Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment, Food and Packaging Systems, and Human and Non-Human Health in line with the University’s Emphasis Areas outlined in the 2020 Roadmap Plan,http://www.clemson.edu/2020.

We must all remain committed to our core mission in this new era of funding. Our charge is to provide excellent educational opportunities for our students and focus on mission-driven research and service. Our goal is to create a new model for a multidisciplinary college of life-based sciences.  It will be a different model in many cases, but a college model that preserves our land grant tradition while preparing for the challenges of the 21st century.


Tom Scott, PhD
Dean, College of Agriculture, Forestry & Life Sciences


"Our goal is to create a new model for a multi-disciplinary college of life-based sciences. It will be a different model in many cases, but a college model that preserves our land grant tradition while preparing for the challenges of the 21st century."

—Tom Scott

Previous posts