Yuan, Robert T.
University of Maryland College Park

Robert T. Yuan
University of Maryland College Park
Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics


The career of Robert Yuan has encompassed three major areas: research in molecular biology at Harvard, the universities of Edinburgh (Scotland), Basel (Switzerland), and Maryland - College Park and the National Cancer Institute; the use of biotechnology in economic development, and curriculum development based on novel interdisciplinary and crosscultural courses at the University of Maryland. He served as a foreign service officer at the U.S. Embassy in London with responsibility for carrying out a scientific and technological assessment of biotechnology in Western Europe. Subsequently, he undertook similar studies in Asia (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong) for the U.S. government and served as a consultant for Asian governments and also for private corporations and financial organizations. He has been the author of ten government reports and two books on these topics. He is the Asian editor for Genetic Engineering News, the principal trade journal in biotechnology, and writes a regular column on biotechnology in Asia.

Robert's interest in the use of technology for economic development particularly in the developing world required an understanding of the needs for skilled manpower. He served as an adviser to the Royal Thai government in its restructuring of SME graduate education and was an organizer of the first U.S.-EU workshop on university science education. For almost 15 years, he has worked at creating a series of new honors seminars and restructuring existing biology courses at the University of Maryland. The guiding principles for these courses are that they should reflect the workplace (as a basis for active learning) and to incorporate diversity (and globalization) into science courses. The three honors seminars are interdisciplinary and crosscultural. In "Biology and Culture" student teams develop case studies that show how the biological sciences can be used to solve major problems in developing countries. In "Biotechnology in Asia," students form teams that study the interface between biotechnology, economic development and culture in major Asian countries. In the most recent seminar, "Traditional Chinese Medicine: a Complementary Approach to Western Medicine," the students examine the history, philosophy and applications of two distinct and parallel systems of health and medical care, and possible areas of integration. Products (e.g., case studies) and strategies developed in these seminars can then be applied for mainstream courses, either at the introductory or senior levels. For the past three years, he has served as a consultant for the Board of Life Sciences of the National Research Council working on undergraduate biology education. A major project has been BIO 2010, a report that recommends the creation of interdisciplinary curriculae for those undergraduates headed for biomedical research careers.