UW Master of Science in Biotechnology Program: An Excellent Fit for both Scientists and Business Professionals

WebinarsThe University of Wisconsin’s Master of Science in Biotechnology Program (MS-Biotechnology Program) is uniquely designed for working professionals who would like to further their careers in biotechnology.  It is based on an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on the science, law, and business of biotechnology.

Faculty represent both the academic and corporate worlds.  This has allowed the program to remain extremely applied and to focus on the skills essential for success in global biotechnology industries.

The program has been collaborating since its inception in 2002 with the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) to provide the three laboratory-based Molecular Technologies courses.

As noted on the program’s website (www.ms-biotech.wisc.edu), it offers:

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

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, it is ideally suited for working professionals with either science backgrounds and training, or those with business or legal experience, or both.  The strong cohort nature of the program allows students with varying backgrounds to assist each other in working on topics that are not familiar to them.

In addition, course instructors tailor the information and assignments to facilitate successful learning in areas outside of a student’s expertise.  For example, the laboratory courses are designed and executed to first equip all students with the basic science behind biotechnology before diving into more advanced scientific areas.  Scientific content is paired with hands-on laboratory activities, ensuring that all students become comfortable and competent in the laboratory environment.

The three business courses in the program focus on technology assessment, product development, and strategic growth.  They take students through the entire product development process from inception to creation of a successful product portfolio.  As most students do not come from a law or regulatory background, courses in intellectual property, licensing, regulations, ethics, and biotechnology operations further prepare graduates for the complex world of biotechnology.

With the increasing impact biotechnology is having on society and its ability to address global problems, more and more international students are being drawn to the program as well.  Currently the program has students from China, India, Chile, Columbia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, and Nigeria.

Highlighting the diversity of student backgrounds, including international status, here are the stories of three program participants, including one alumnus and two current students. 

gregGreg Emmerich received his undergraduate degree in microbiology, and is currently working as a Science Writer at Promega Corporation.  Previously, he worked as a Manufacturing Technician at Third Wave Technologies/Hologic (a medical diagnostics and imaging company), and a Creative Strategist at Fractl (a data-driven marketing research firm in Florida).

Greg applied to the MS-Biotechnology Program “when I was fairly young, with the hope of exposing myself to a multitude of areas in the biotechnology industry.  I was working at the lab bench and knew it wasn’t a long term career; I wanted to be able to apply my creativity in a scientific setting and was enticed by how the program seemed to combine science and business”.

Graduating in 2013, Greg thinks that completion of the program has had a definite impact on his career.   “The lasting impression I have of the master’s program is about information access, analysis, and presentation, rather than the vast amount of memorization that encompassed by undergraduate experience.  I became adept at quickly interpreting new technologies in my own words.  I worked on large scale projects in groups with diverse backgrounds, similar to real world situations.  Employers have been impressed with the hard work ethic I demonstrated during those two years and my ability to multitask.  I feel like the program has really accelerated my career and helped me discover a path that I’m passionate about.”

benBen Seffrood received his undergraduate degree in history, and also has an MBA in Finance.  Prior to being the Head of Finance at Roche Nimblegen (Madison, WI), he was the Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis at Cardinal Health.

Given Ben’s background in business and finance, he applied to the MS-Biotechnology Program to “learn more about science.  Specifically, I thought that the program would help me better understand both basic and advanced scientific concepts, as well as allow me to gain experience working in a laboratory.  Most importantly, I am interested in commercializing ground-breaking science.”

In order to take science from the lab to the market, Ben felt like he “needed to better understand the interplay of science, business, and law, and how successful commercialization of promising technologies requires all of these factors in order to succeed”.

Anticipating graduation in May, 2016, Ben feels the MS-Biotechnology Program has already helped him in many ways.  According to him, “my scientific vocabulary and knowledge have improved greatly.  And, the classroom laboratory work has given me first-hand experience with many concepts that industry uses to develop drugs and clinical diagnostic tests.  As a result, I am more confident that I have the credentials to competently discuss cancer detection technologies with leading scientists both inside and outside of Roche.”

“In addition, I have a better appreciation of the need and the benefits of regulation regarding developing diagnostic tests.  The program has also been instrumental in my understanding of how to create demand for new technologies and how hard it is to displace existing and entrenched technologies.  Because of the knowledge I’ve gained, I have been able to contribute to scientific discussions, land a couple of collaboration deals with large and well-known institutions, and I believe that I am better prepared to successfully commercialize early cancer detection technologies.”

YiwenYiwen Ge received her undergraduate degree in Biosciences in China.  She currently works as a Validation Intern in Madison at BioTechnique LLC (a contract manufacturing organization) and previously worked in the Cranberry Genetics Lab at UW – Madison as a Laboratory Assistant.

While Yiwen accumulated scientific knowledge in her undergraduate experience, “I realized that the real value of scientific research can only be reflected through its practical application or production.  Instead of being a scientist, I have more interest in working in the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical industries.  The multidisciplinary curriculum offered by the Biotechnology Program caught my attention and is the perfect start to assist me in making the transition from bench scientist to a more business role in a biotechnology firm.”

Yiwen also anticipates graduating from the program in May, 2016.  She feels that the program is giving her “an understanding of the whole process of bio-product development and marketing strategies to become a product manager in a biotechnology or pharma company.  I believe that the well-rounded education from this program will have provided me with the necessary skills to obtain and surpass my career aspirations.”

The University of Wisconsin’s Master of Science in Biotechnology Program was specifically designed for students with diverse backgrounds, allowing all to be successful in the field of global biotechnology!

For more information, please contact Natalie Betz or visit www.ms-biotech.wisc.edu.

Natalie Betz
Associate Director
Master of Science in Biotechnology
University of Wisconsin – Madison
School of Medicine and Public Health

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Natalie Betz
Natalie Betz, PhD, a former Scientific Applications Scientist at Promega, serves as Assistant Director of the MS-Biotechnology Program and lead designer/instructor for Molecular Technologies I, II and III, working for both UW-Madison and the BTC Institute.

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