Career Development for Working Professionals: UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program

Prior to the Masters in Biotechnology program, I had no working knowledge of Intellectual Property (IP), e.g., patents, trademarks, etc. The M.S. in Biotechnology program not only opened my eyes to Intellectual Property and its importance in biotechnology companies, but it sparked my interested in a career in an IP field. From the knowledge I gained and connections made in the program, I have been able to achieve a career in IP. I am now happy to be able to share my experience and knowledge with current and future students in the program.
—Heather Gerard, M.S. (2006) Intellectual Property Manager, Promega Corporation

Since 2002, the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) has been effectively collaborating with the UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program (MS-Biotechnology) to provide the three lab-based Molecular Technologies courses for this unique degree designed for working professionals.

As noted on the program’s web site, it offers:

  • A curriculum like no other that integrates topics in science, business and law
  • Powerful skills that bring the “big picture” of life science product development into clear focus
  • Exclusive evening/weekend courses allowing you to work full-time while enrolled, and
  • A completed degree in less than two years

Photo credit: BTC Institute.
Photo credit: BTC Institute.
One of the many strengths of the program is the direct involvement of industry scientists and staff as instructors. Their involvement ensures the sharing of the applied knowledge and skills essential to the success of a biotechnology company in current global markets. With Promega Corporation as our primary sponsor, the BTC Institute is able to provide Molecular Technologies I, II and III in our industry-based training labs, drawing upon the expertise of many Promega employees, as well as experts working in other companies, in addition to academic faculty and staff. The courses also include tours of other biotechnology companies in the Madison area, to assure students’ exposure to diverse environments.

Yet another innovative aspect of this fairly unique program and its partnership with the BTC Institute is related to maintaining close connections with alumni, both in order to continue to serve graduates but also to provide current students access to a strong network of peers in the field. One way this is done is to involve graduates as instructors in our courses, as relevant to their areas of expertise.

Currently three graduates who work for Promega are playing this role: Heather Gerard, M.S. (2006), Intellectual Property Manager, covers freedom to operate in a corporate environment in Molecular Technologies I; Fernando Bermudez, M.D., M.S. (2009), Production Scientist Level IV is teaching fermentation and protein purification in Molecular Technologies II; Tracy Worzella, M.S. (2004), Senior Automation Scientist, co-teaches Molecular Technologies III and also contributes to Molecular Technologies II regarding the use of automation.

The MS Biotech program enhanced my understanding of the biotech field and helped me better appreciate the various disciplines involved. The practical experience gained in the program made me better equipped to navigate the biotech environment that I was working in. Having an advanced degree in biotechnology from UW-Madison presented opportunities to me that I don’t feel I would have had otherwise. I’ve taken on a number of scientific roles since graduation and feel more confident dealing with the rapidly changing biotech environment thanks to the MS Biotech program. I feel privileged to serve as an instructor and to be a part of the growing network of students and alumni. —Tracy Worzella, M.S. (2004), Senior Automation Scientist, Promega Corporation

For more information, please visit or contact Natalie Betz (

Natalie Betz, PhD, Assistant Director of the MS-Biotechnology Program also contributed to this post.

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Karin Borgh
Karin Borgh, PhD is the Executive Director of the BTC Institute.

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