19 August 2021

Preparing the Military’s Biotechnology Workforce of the Future

The USU Center for Biotechnology (USU-4DBio3) supplements bioengineering education at military service academies.

Over the past two decades, biotechnology has significantly advanced and changed the practice of medicine. In particular, it has improved disease surveillance for earlier therapeutic intervention as well as the success of medical therapy. Advances in biotechnology have also shown great promise to transform military medicine and promote warfighter readiness and resilience. There is a growing need for modern practitioners (e.g. scientists, physicians, nurses, technicians) to develop and apply these promising biotechnologies to military medicine.

Established in 2017 in collaboration with The Geneva Foundation, the Uniformed Services University (USU) Center for Biotechnology (USU-4DBio3) was created to jumpstart the adaptation of promising biotechnology within the Department of Defense (DoD). In recognition of the need for recruitment of future scientists and health professionals for biotechnology integration, the USU-4D Bio3 has provided educational opportunities for USU medical school and graduate students, in addition to undergraduate students from military service academies.

“Biotechnology is universally recognized as a huge growth sector not only for our economy but also our military, who are expected to deploy at a moment’s notice and often to an austere location,” said Director of USU-4DBio3 Vincent Ho, MD, MBA. “The development of a novel sensor to detect an environmental risk or the ability to manufacture ‘clean’ human blood products downrange could be potentially lifesaving. The development of these solutions, however, requires highly skilled scientists, healthcare providers, and operators.”

“Under USU-4DBio3, we have the unique opportunity to tailor biotechnology solutions for our warfighters and educate the workforce of the future to ensure implementation of biotechnology in military medicine.” Dr. Ho added, “To realize this outcome requires highly sophisticated knowledge in several areas such as biomedical engineering, tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and medical devices.”

The mission of USU-4DBio3 is to discover, develop, and deliver novel biotechnologies for the advancement of military medicine, biomedical/medical education, and multi-disciplinary collaboration within the DoD, but also with other federal agencies, academia, and industry. USU-4D Bio3 operates with three main goals in mind:

1. To provide intramural (DoD) expertise in biological printing/fabrication research and product development.

2. To engage and foster research collaboration with other DoD, Federal, and/or non-Federal scientists to facilitate the advancement of biofabrication technologies for military medicine.

3. To develop the next generation of DoD expertise in biofabrication by providing a broad range of educational opportunities.



USU-4D Bio3 education and training initiatives are built around a core curriculum tailored to its mission and objectives and adaptable to all roles and levels of instruction.

Kristin Heitman, PhD, Geneva Senior Manager for Education & Training for 4D Bio3, said, “All of our education and training initiatives serve four interlocking objectives: to promote awareness of biotechnology solutions for the DoD’s mission; to develop the biotechnology expertise necessary to meet current and future DoD demands; to stay on top of rapidly developing key biotechnology areas; and to develop a strong network of well-trained personnel that will benefit warfighters.”

Over the last two years, 4D Bio3 Education and Training staff have built a family of curricula geared toward graduate and undergraduate students in partnership with military universities:

Uniformed Services University (USU)
  • Under USU’s Capstone Experience, a mentored literature search or hands-on experience in the 4D Bio3 laboratory for medical students at any level
  • Fundamental Concepts and Techniques in Biofabrication, a graduate course open to students in any USU PhD program
  • Lab rotations for graduate students in Molecular and Cell Biology

Military Service Academies

  • Guest lectures, mentorship, and internships at U.S. Military Academy West Point (USMA) and U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA)
  • Joint summer laboratory experience for military service academy students


Since 2020, Geneva has also offered highly competitive paid summer internships in the USU-4D Bio3 lab for up to two civilian engineering students.

Future planned initiatives for graduate students in 2021-2022 include courses in biotechnology, including ethics; a master’s program in Biotechnology at the USU School of Medicine; and PhD dissertation research support.

“We also hope to expand our education initiatives in 2021-2022 to provide post-doctoral fellows and established scientists with hands-on workshops at USU, instructional workshops at professional meetings, and teaching cases and other instructional materials for use by organizations such as the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES),“ said Dr. Heitman.

In addition, program leaders are developing an apprenticeship program for enlisted service members with laboratory or equipment maintenance qualifications, projected to begin in 2022-2023.

For more information about USU-4D Bio3 training initiatives, please contact Geneva Senior Manager, Education & Training for USU-4D Bio3 Kristin Heitman, PhD at kristin.heitman.ctr@usuhs.edu.


Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Dr. George Klarmann