Cal State Fullerton is at the center of a four-campus consortium gearing up to offer a new professional science master’s degree with an emphasis in applied biotechnology.
The other three campuses in the CSUF-led consortium, called the Program for Applied Biotechnology Studies (PABS), are Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly Pomona.
David Dyer, who has served as a senior scientist and research director in the biotech industry for more than 10 years, is the PABS program director.
“The emphasis in this new master’s program differs from the traditional master’s program in a couple of ways,” Dyer said. “Students in the applied biotechnology program will receive what is being called ‘science plus’ training. The ‘plus’ portion refers to training in business practices, including communication skills, project management and budget analysis.
“This helps the students' chances of finding employment in that arena and can save businesses training expenses. Students participate in industrial internships and work on research project teams assigned by biotech businesses,” Dyer explained. “Students are evaluated, in part, on the basis of their contributions.
“By contrast, a traditional master’s student does individual primary research with the end goal of writing a thesis,” he said. Each of the four campuses will provide classes leading to the graduate degree. The consortium expects to have its first students in classes by next fall.
The four campuses in the CSUF-led consortium are among 14 California State University campuses that have committed to the program since its launch within the CSU in 2006, under the direction of Robert Koch, professor and chair o biological science at Cal State Fullerton.
Among the participating campuses, professional science master's degrees are being developed in: applied biotechnology studies, environmental sciences, biotechnology-agricultural, forensic sciences, computational science, bioinformatics, medical product development management and genetic counseling. The curriculum development is created in collaboration with industry experts and aimed at preparing graduates to step directly into job roles, with little or no additional training from employers.
Dyer brought a select group of stakeholders to campus Oct. 16 for a meeting to discuss biotechnology workforce development, define issues needed to support the overall development of the biotechnology industry, and to explore ways to work together to improve the success of the biotechnology industry in Orange County.
Attendees included: state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), a CSUF alumnus (B.A. economics ’80); Joe Panetta, president and chief executive officer of BIOCOM, which has hundreds of executives from Southern California biotechnology companies in its membership; and Joan Bissell, director of teacher education and public school programs for the CSU; as well as executives from Southern California biotechnology companies. Joining them were CSUF President Milton A. Gordon and administrators and faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Getting committed support for the consortium's program is an early big step toward its success, Dyer said.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation recently awarded the CSU system $474,000 — second-year funding of a three-year grant — to develop the new master’s program. A 2006 grant of $891,000 helped get the program off the ground. Seven of the 14 campuses started the program in that first wave, with the Fullerton-led consortium joining the newest wave.
An additional $100,000 from Abbott Laboratories supported the CSU effort.
Dyer said universities are trying to keep the costs as close to a standard CSU master’s degree as possible, which, he said, “opens the door to students who wouldn’t be able to get a PSM under most current programs. They can cost $30,000 or even more, far more than a standard master’s.”
The CSU's professional science master's degree programs were featured as the most advanced in the nation at the National Governor’s Association Professional Science Master’s Academy held in June in Sacramento. The academy includes higher education and economic policy advisers appointed by U.S. governors to work in the implementation of PSM programs in their home states.
Dyer is working with liaisons from each of the campuses in the PABS consortium: Getachew Kidane of Cal State Dominguez Hills, Jill Adler Moore of Cal Poly Pomona and Sandra Sharp of Cal State Los Angeles.