Ohio State University's Department of Plant Pathology, in collaboration with the International Studies Program, is 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, says the 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," Curtis says. "Tony Mughan, who is director of the International Studies Program, approached me and asked what we in the Department of Plant Pathology could do to fill that need."

The course is based on the book, "Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism." The book 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 OSU class will include guest lecturers, including Ohio State professors Mike Boehm, plant pathology; Randi Love, public health; Jeffry Lewis, international studies; Mo Saif, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Food Animal Health Research Program; and Jeff LeJeune, OARDC Food Animal Health Research Program. Public Broadcasting Service 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 has changed that," Mughan says. "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 says 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," Curtis says. "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 is taught on the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences campus. If the course proves successful, instructors will increase the frequency of the course offering.

For more information on the bioterrorism course, contact Curtis at (614) 292-4854 or by e-mail at curtis.6@osu.edu.