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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio State Offers Bioterrorism Course

December 29, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University's Department of Plant Pathology, in collaboration with the International Studies Program, will be offering undergraduate students a new course on a much-needed aspect of global and homeland security.


"Bioterrorism: An Overview", being offered beginning Winter Quarter 2006, is designed to cover topics on how terrorism relates to public health, plants and animals from a biological and agricultural perspective. No other course instruction of its kind exists on campus.

Chuck Curtis, an Ohio State Extension plant pathologist, said that the bioterrorism course fills a gap in the Intelligence and Security track of the International Studies Program.

"The major covers political issues, laws and regulations, but there was no instruction related to the biological aspect of terrorism," said Curtis, who also holds a partial research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "Tony Mughan, who is director of the International Studies Program, approached me and asked what we in the Department of Plant Pathology could do fill that need."

The course, based on a book called "Biological Weapons. From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism," covers such topics as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; agency and organization infrastructure; the role of the land-grant system in food and fiber production; public health issues related to diseases, bacteria, viruses and toxins; epidemics and pandemics; animal health and livestock issues, and an overview of plants and plant-related diseases. The class will also include guest lecturers, including the following Ohio State professors: Mike Boehm, plant pathology; Randi Love, public health; Jeffry Lewis, international studies; Mo Saif, OARDC Food Animal Health Research Program; and Jeff LeJeune, OARDC Food Animal Health Research Program. Aspects of NOVA and PBS presentations on war and bioterrorism will be incorporated into the course curriculum.

"We tend to think of any threat to our national security in terms of standing armies, nuclear wars, and the like, but 9/11 changed has changed that," said Tony Mughan, an Ohio State political scientist. "There's now a new dimension of threat and that's terrorism, and one very important aspect of that new threat is bioterrorism. Students seeking to work with animals, in agriculture, or in national security will find this course especially useful."

To that end, Curtis stated that the course will involve a mix of practical and theoretical instruction.

"The intention is to make it realistic, to provide a general awareness of the broad group of potential biothreats that do exist," said Curtis. "I've noticed the lack of awareness the general public and our student body has regarding bioterrorism. How badly off are we, and what is the government doing about it? This course is meant to look at those issues."

The course will be taught on the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences campus, and if proven successful, instructors will increase the frequency of the course offering. So far, over half of the class capacity has been filled.

For more information on the bioterrorism course, contact Chuck Curtis at (614) 292-4854, or e-mail


Candace Pollock
Chuck Curtis, Tony Mughan