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Harrisburg University’s new Master of Science in Biotechnology program will equip graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to take advantage of a booming biotechnology field.

Dr. Mrunalini Pattarkine, a professor of biotechnology at HU and the leader of the new master’s program, says the advanced degree builds upon the university’s existing bachelor’s degree program.

“You can be hired as a junior scientist with an undergraduate degree,” Dr. Pattarkine says. “But if you aspire to go higher, then a postgraduate degree is essential.”

It’s a wise time to invest in increased credentials, as job opportunities abound.

Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry includes more than 2,300 businesses that employ almost 80,000 people. One industry group, PA Life Sciences notes that the concentration of bioscience employment is 9 percent higher in Pennsylvania than the U.S. average.

A master’s degree can give graduates an even bigger advantage.

Dr. Pattarkine says one of her former students now works with a placement agency. She says her firm has struggled to fill more than dozens of jobs in the biotech field in the Philadelphia and Baltimore regions because of a lack of qualified candidates.

Harrisburg University, Dr. Pattarkine says, is stepping up to fill that gap.

Specialization is key to success

The degree will be HU’s first master’s program in science and was developed with extensive input from an advisory group comprised of CEOs and senior leaders of biotechnology firms

The university is accepting applications for the summer program that starts in May.

The 36-credit hour M.S. in Biotechnology program will offer students an ability to gain specialization while customizing and individualizing the education for desired skills and careers. All students must complete 18 credits of core courses. Then, they can choose concentrations of biomanufacturing, medical biotechnology, or business and management of biotechnology.

Innovation continues to drive the industry, and researchers must also understand how to commercialize their work to raise funding, Dr. Pattarkine says.

“All of these people need to be skill-savvy, and they need to have a fundamental science background,” she says. “But they need to specialize. That is what this program really allows people to do. That’s the value added.”

Getting ahead of the curve

While the program will attract traditional students working toward a master’s or Ph.D., Dr. Pattarkine envisions that somebody with a decade of experience in manufacturing could also take advantage to send their career on a higher trajectory. This program would also appeal to those working in consulting space.

With the program’s specialization benefits, students will leave prepared — whether it’s knowing how to navigate complex compliance and legal issues on the business side or working to develop the next wave of drugs, vaccines or diagnostic devices.

Whatever it is, the work will be cutting edge.

“That’s where the industry is going in the next 10 years,” Dr. Pattarkine says. “We want to get ahead of the curve.”

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