Strong industry ties fuel the success of the Masters in Biotechnology program


According to entry-level placement figures that Escote-Carlson has compiled over the past 21 years, more than 60% of program graduates end up working in industry, and the rest are split fairly evenly across jobs. government and academic or non-profit and further education.

“The biggest draw for our graduates is certainly the biopharmaceutical industry, and most of them go into discovery research, which is the starting point for the development of drugs, vaccines and medical devices,” she said. “Others engage in the non-scientific areas of biotechnology – business development, intellectual property law, government policy – and some, of course, stay in academia as lab directors or work in basic facilities, or they are in non-profit organizations like research institutes.And some also go on to PhD or other degree.

Ultimately, though, all of these alumni have one thing in common: they’re in high demand.

A different paradigm

“One of the features of the program is that these students are broadly educated,” Escote-Carlson explained. “They need to be grounded in the science areas that really lead to biotechnology innovation, and they need to understand what the industry is. And it’s a very different paradigm for graduate education than our traditional MSc and PhD programs.

Although this type of higher education is not uncommon in other fields—engineering and business administration are notable examples—according to Escote-Carlson, Penn State was among the first universities to introduce a graduate program. Masters in Biotechnology.

“The idea was that we have so many doctorates. natural science programs and academic positions are not growing at the rate we are producing degrees,” she said. “So one of the recommendations was to develop master’s degrees that were positioned for a non-academic or broader type of work, and the biotech industry at the time was booming.”

Fortunately, Escote-Carlson had also spent two years as a postdoc at a Canadian biotech startup, Cangene Corporation.

“I loved it so much,” she said. “And so, because I had this background in biotechnology, which gave me a practical understanding of how the biotech industry works, that’s how this whole idea started – with Life Sciences Consortium Director Nina Federoff — that perhaps we should offer another higher education experience to our students.

An alternative experience

In addition to a heavy course load – at least 27 credits during the first two semesters and a minimum of 30 credits to graduate – students in the program complete a research internship or cooperation of at least six months at full-time, usually in industry, government, or in a nonprofit or other academic institution.

Students also have access to the University’s world-class research facilities – including the CSL Behring Fermentation Facility and the Sartorius Cell Culture Facility – as well as faculty expertise through the Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology and the Advisory Council on Biotechnology, composed of recognized experts. of the whole industry.

The advisory board not only provides strategic advice on the program’s curriculum, but its members also serve as career mentors to students and connect them to opportunities, including internships, co-ops, and even full-time jobs.

And, Escote-Carlson noted, the program’s many successful alumni — now spanning the biotech industry — are another great resource for students, providing them with even more opportunities for professional development and networking.

“It really is a perfect environment,” she said. “There are so many resources, and we’ve been very fortunate to develop our program in this type of environment with such tremendous support.”

No better testimony

Now in its 21st year and with over 250 alumni, the program continues to raise the bar for its own success.

“Our students have to be very competitive,” Escote-Carlson said, “but what I saw last spring—several job openings per student, and very attractive, too—is the first time I’ve see this level.”

She gives credit, however, to the students.

“No matter how well we say we prepared them, ultimately it’s the students who have to show the proof,” she said. “And they do really well there. I always credit them that over the years industry would come to us and say, “Hey, do you have any other students who might be interested in working with us? What better testimony is there than this? »

About the Master’s Program in Biotechnology

Penn State’s master’s degree in biotechnology—the oldest such program in the United States—is offered by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in conjunction with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

The University also offers an integrated undergraduate degree program designed to enable qualified undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology program to graduate in five years with a Masters in Biotechnology.

More information about these programs is available in the University’s Graduate Bulletin.

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