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Student Testimonials

This page consists of alumni and current student's thoughts on the Master's of Biotechnology Program, their time here at Penn, and for the alumni- where they went after completion of the program.



Christopher Yi
Full-time Student
Fall 2017 – Spring 2019

As a first-year graduate student, I have found the biotechnology program extremely rewarding. In undergrad, I spent a considerable amount of at a research lab; thus, in graduate school, I seek to broaden my horizon and apply my scientific knowledge outside of academia. Here at Penn, I was awestruck by the amount of support and resources made available to us since day 1. Dr. Scott Diamond and Tori connected me with program’s alumni, expanding my network. The Career Center held workshops on professional development, which offer insightful tips and guidance. The School of Engineering frequently organized social events that allowed me to befriend students outside of my specialty, such as computer scientists and mechanical engineers. These resources not only informed me of the different career paths I could take after graduate school, but also enabled me to reflect on my core strengths, weaknesses, and personal values.

Academically, I have been able to learn from some of the world’s most renowned researchers and entrepreneurs. For example, I learned from Prof. Tom Cassel and Prof. Jeffrey Babin, two highly successful entrepreneurs, about the various aspects of bringing a product to market, from idea generation to product design, from venture financing to marketing. Likewise, through a Regulatory Science class taught by Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, VP at Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, I gained newfound insights into the complex regulatory decisions behind FDA’s drug approval process.

But my master’s experience has been so much more than classes. I have attended venture capital seminars organized by Wharton, as well as intellectual property workshops hosted by Penn Law. Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation holds regular office hours for people to drop by and discuss exciting ideas, projects, and research opportunities. I am also involved numerous student organizations. In the Engineering Master’s Student Advisory Board (EMAB), I am spearheading a Tutoring Program to help master’s students excel academically while at Penn. In addition, I am also leading the annual case competition at the Penn Graduate Consulting Club (PGCC). These experiences have allowed me to learn from other bright graduate students with similar goals and values. I am very pleased with my decision to choose Penn, and I look forward to the next two years of my program.



Su Oner
Part-time Student
Fall 2017 – Spring 2020

I work full time at the Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility, which is a part of the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn. My background is in cell and gene therapy manufacturing. I applied to the Masters in Biotechnology program because I have the technical production skills, and I want to expand my knowledge in translational science beyond manufacturing. There are many classes addressing subjects I’m interested in exploring, and there are a lot of classes available that allow me to pursue my interests while working. The flexibility of this program allows me to work and study at the same time, without limiting what I can learn.This program was one of the reasons why I decided to apply to work at Penn. The Masters in Biotechnology program is a valuable opportunity for me to enrich my interdisciplinary understanding of bringing a new technology to market, as well as the science behind cutting edge discoveries.

Taking Engineering Biotechnology (CBE 554) in my first semester provided helped introduce various aspects of biotechnology industry. The assignment to design a gene therapy for cystic fibrosis using CRISPR/Cas9 gene modification challenged us to put into use what we learned in class in terms of production, purification, delivery mechanisms, and cost calculations. This semester I am expanding what I have learned by taking a class on cell and gene therapy where we are discussing translating preclinical investigation into therapeutics, and execution of clinical trials. The other class I am taking on Translational Therapeutics is looking into the same process from an entrepreneurial perspective, such as technology transfer, intellectual property, financing, and startup formation. Taking these two classes in parallel gives me the tools to learn about the biotechnology industry from different angles.

As a student in the biotechnology program, I feel immersed in the growing biotechnology ecosystem of the Philadelphia area. I enjoy learning from different professionals with expertise in their areas from HUP, CHOP, the university, and companies in the surrounding area.




Samip Sheth
Full-time Student
Summer 2017 – Spring 2018

My experience as a submatriculant into Penn’s Master of Biotechnology Program has been excellent. The program has given me an opportunity to pursue advanced coursework in molecular biology, medicine, and healthcare. For example, in a tissue engineering course, my team designed 3D-printed, synthetic scaffolds to facilitate cartilage regeneration in humans. In a translational medicine course, I examined the mechanisms, regulatory affairs, and marketplace of new immunotherapies. In a healthcare course, I developed policy memos to advance the results of my clinical research in a legislative setting. These three courses underscore the flexibility in the program’s curriculum, which has enlarged and deepened my interest in biotechnology.

To nurture my interest, I have relied on the programming, resources, faculty, and facilities on Penn’s campus. For example, the advisors at Career Services have sharpened my interviewing skills. Many faculty, like our program director Scott Diamond, remain accessible and available for academic, career, and life guidance. The Singh Center for Nanotechnology, the Vagelos Building, and the Smilow Center for Translational Research house hundreds of laboratories. There, I have worked on the cutting edge of cardiovascular metabolism research in the newest of facilities. There are also so many other people, places, and things at Penn that are recognized throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States, and worldwide. Here, of course, you’ll find a wealth of opportunity.

Once you align that opportunity with your interests and goals, you’ll begin to forge your own path. Fortunately, you’ll receive support along the way. For me, I have relied on Tori Frew, our biotechnology academic advisor; various faculty; and friends and peers. Additionally, while leading the Engineering Masters Advisory Board, I have been introduced to a new community of students. Together, we’re all forging our own paths while thinking about the future. What I have learned, and want to share with you, is that the biotechnology program is the best of Penn—interdisciplinary and flexible, academically, and inclusive and welcoming, socially. It’s why I am proud to call myself a biotechnology student, graduate with a specialized, professional degree, and prepare myself for the next step in my education.




Jamila Hoque
Part-time Student
Summer 2016 – Spring 201

I am greatly satisfied with my experience in the program and believe it is the foundation to my future success in the bio-pharmaceutical industry. Within my first year working for a clinical research lab at the Institute of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, I had realized that I was interested in pursuing a professional Master’s degree at Penn. While there are many options here, the Biotechnology Master’s program called to me because of its interdisciplinary nature of fusing science, biomedical research, industry, and business. The program administration was also very friendly and helpful with providing information about the graduate degree and application process.

Currently, I am a part-time student in the program while working full-time as a Clinical Project Manager for Dr. Daniel J.Rader, who studies the prevention of atherosclerosis. The lab focuses on the basic science and clinical aspects of the disease. I have been able to grow professionally within my group, as well as consistently take at least two classes a semester. Working at Penn allows me to be located in close proximity to my classes, utilize campus resources, and also provides tuition benefits.The program is extremely flexible allowing me to tailor the degree to not only fit my interests, but my demanding workload and schedule. Furthermore, the versatile curriculum has given me the opportunity to take courses from The School of Engineering and Applied Science, The School of Arts & Sciences, The Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School of Business.

The breadth of classes I have taken alongside with my work has given me a newfound interest in the interface of business and biomedical industry. Suitably, the Certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship from the School of Engineering is easily incorporated into my curriculum providing me with a foundation and introduction to the world of business. Last spring I took a class MTR 642, Building a Life Sciences Startup that focuses on practical applications of technology, commercialization, and simulating a startup vision to determine feasibility for execution. Currently, I am in my final semester of the program and I am finishing up courses geared to the certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship such asEngineering EntrepreneurshipII and Foundations of Leadership. I believe the interdisciplinarynature of the program is a perfect complement for me as I work with several renowned pharmaceutical companies from both a scientific and business approach.




Nan (Carina) Cheng
Full-time Student
Fall 2016 – Spring 2018

I joined the Master of Biotechnology program in Fall 2016 with the concentration of biopharmaceuticals/engineering biotechnology. I have already been impressed by this program in many different aspects. The most impressive thing is the flexibility of the program as there is a wide range of courses that I can choose to fit my interest and future planning.

My undergraduate study focused on natural science. By taking the course Engineering Biotechnology (CBE 554), it gave me a deep understanding of various biotechnologies utilizing the basic biology knowledge I learned before. I also took a course from public health studies, Introduction to Biostatistics (PUBH 501). Rather than giving you theories in statistics, this course emphasizes on the application. I also took courses from The Wharton School and the Perelman School of Medicine, which provided me more information about the management and regulation of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

There are also many interesting extra-curricular activities. The one that I have to mention is the Penn Biotech Group (PBG) Healthcare Consulting. It gave me my first experience in consulting in the pharmaceutical field. It is the best opportunity to learn how to solve real-life problems using the knowledge from school when you have little experience. The Biotechnology Student Association (BSA) also offers various activities that you can make connections with other students and professors as well. To gain more biological research experience, I also joined a lab at The Wistar Institute during the summer time and Fall 2017 as my independent study project. I found myself really interested in biological research from this experience and it also made me decided to go for a PhD. study. I really have enjoyed the time I've spent here at Penn. I believe the experiences here will lead me to a successful transaction to PhD study in biomedical science.




Suraj Bharadwaj
Full-time Student
Fall 2016 – Spring 2018

My name is Suraj and I am a second-year Masters student in the Biopharmaceutical Engineering concentration. The primary reason behind me choosing this program was its unique position at the junction of science and business. The interdisciplinary nature of the program adds a great deal of flexibility to the curriculum, allowing students to choose from courses offered by different verticals under the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) such as Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Bioengineering (BE), Computer and Information Sciences (CIS), Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM), etc. The program curriculum includes courses offered by schools outside SEAS, including but not limited to the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) and the Wharton School of Business. The immense flexibility in curriculum has allowed me to tailor my course selection to my interest. The Engineering Biotechnology course (CBE 554) provided the platform necessary for graduate study in Biotechnology. I have picked courses relevant to the pharmaceutical industry such as those related to drug discovery and development, and pharmacology. I have also worked towards the Certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship, and have thoroughly enjoyed these classes.

Outside of academics, I am currently a part of PBG Healthcare Consulting, a student run consulting organization with clients in the life science industries. I believe that this experience is of great assistance due to my desire for a career in consulting as it provides essential insight into the workings of the healthcare industry and the potential roadblocks one might have to conquer as part of these companies. I am also the Vice Chair for the Communications Committee of the Graduate and Professional Students’ Association (GAPSA) of the University. I am also on the board of the Biotechnology Student Association (BSA) and the Engineering Masters Advisory Board (EMAB). Organizations such as these provide a great platform for networking and foster a sense of belonging among graduate and professional students. I believe that this program and the university has contributed greatly to my holistic development and has helped me achieve my pursuit of a career in the consulting and management of life science and pharmaceutical companies. After graduation, I will be joining a New York based life science consulting company at the Associate level.




(Karyll, Kanika, and Rachel- board members of the Biotechnology Student Association)



Caitlin Ward
Full-time Student
Fall 2015 – Spring 2017

My name is Caitlin Ward and I am in my final year as a Masters of Biotechnology student with my concentration in biopharmaceutical engineering.  I started this program after a few years off from my undergrad but the support that the program and the school has provided me allowed me to be successful immediately.  The flexibility of this program has allowed me to create my class schedule to reflect my interests and my career aspirations. 

By tailoring my classes to fit my interests, I have been able to further my science knowledge as well as a necessary background in business.  Particularly, I believe that Engineering Biotechnology (CBE 554) was important during my first semester as a grad student because it provided me with an in depth understanding of the various aspects of biotechnology and how they fit into my interests.  Another class I have thus far found extremely worthwhile is Engineering Entrepreneurship (EAS 545).  I am currently taking this class but I have already found it immensely useful in my understanding of companies and believe that this knowledge will be transferrable for any company that I work for in the future.

Other than my academics, Penn’s biotech program provides the perfect platform to become involved in a variety of extracurricular activities that can serve in both a professional as well as a social manner.  I have been involved with PBG Healthcare Consulting group since last spring.  This is an excellent opportunity to explore the immensely popular world of consulting with actual problems from local companies.  I also serve on the advisory board of Advancing Women in Engineering as well as President of the Biotechnology Student Association (BSA).  Through these groups I have already been able to effect change and help to create meaningful relationships. After graduating in the spring, I joined a pharmaceutical company focusing on manufacturing and operations.




Peter Saira
Part-time Student
Fall 2014 – Spring 2019

My name is Peter and I am a student in the Master of Biotechnology program, I work full-time and attend classes on a part-time basis. This program has allowed me to grow and develop not only as a student, but through the many resources and opportunities, I have experienced tremendous personal growth. The diverse nature of this curriculum has allowed me to experience the scientific activities that make up the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process, as well as the business practices that allow the companies to function effectively. The curriculum itself is flexible and can be catered to many different schedules, this has allowed me to schedule my classes around my busy work and social life.

This joint program has given me an immense amount of exposure to established professional within many different occupations within the diverse spectrum that is Biotechnology. I have been privileged to hear from successful entrepreneurs in Engineering Entrepreneurship (EAS 545) all the way to influential research and regulatory professionals in Fundamentals of FDA regulation (REG 610).  I have been wildly impressed and amazed with the wealth of talent and intelligence that surrounds me in the biotech student body which has allowed me to enjoy benefits way beyond the classroom. These friendly and helpful fellow peers helped me transition into a demanding curriculum, even though I took some time off after my undergraduate degree. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) and Biotechnology Student Association (BSA) helped as well by continually challenge us students to step outside of our comfort zones and get to know one another by hosting all kinds of different social activities. 

I know I made the correct decision enrolling in the biotech program and I am continually finding new ways to enjoy and reap the benefits from this program, the school and the student body. I have not finished the program just yet, so I will continue to treasure the positive impact I am enjoying in my career development and personal growth.   




Ken Hampshire
Full-time Student
Fall 2015 – Fall 2016

One of the reasons I chose to pursue my biotechnology graduate studies at Penn was the program's flexibility. As a former Marine Corps officer with an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering, I needed a program that covered the underlying science of the biotechnology industry but would also allow me to tailor my education to fit my professional goals. At Penn, I studied under the Biopharmaceutical/ Engineering Biotechnology track which provided me with the basic biotechnology literacy to enable a career transition. At the same time, I was free to pursue diverse courses outside of the track that helped shape my intended career trajectory. Throughout my time at Penn I became increasingly interested in the business aspects of the biotechnology industry, and found that entrepreneurship classes within the engineering school definitely helped solidify this decision.

The unparalleled access to the greater academic ecosystem also shaped my decision to choose Penn. With all the graduate programs at Penn in such close proximity to one another, the accessibility to diverse courses and varying perspectives was very helpful to allow exploration of new ideas and learn about things I might not otherwise have ever considered. Ultimately, I have been fortunate enough to make connections within the Penn Health System and co-founded a biomedical device company with a Penn physician.

At some schools, many graduate students work full-time or are otherwise not living on campus which can make it difficult for programs to build a robust social atmosphere. While at Penn, I've found that the social opportunities are limited only by your own time constraints. There are a multitude of graduate student organizations catering to a broad range of interests. I've had the pleasure of serving as a board member of the Engineering Masters Advisory Board and have participated in intramural sports, as well.

I have found the program to be more than I expected and remain thankful for the things I have learned while in the program. I ultimately intend to pursue a career of management within the life sciences industry, and I know that much of my future success will be directly attributable to Penn Engineering and the Biotechnology program.




Alexandria (Alex) Cogdill
Part-time Student
Fall 2013 – Spring 2016

I have been so impressed with the Biotechnology program on multiple levels. As a joint program at the University of Pennsylvania, in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Arts and Sciences, my studies have been flexible across not just these two graduate schools but across all interdisciplinary aspects of Penn’s 12 graduate programs; including but not limited The Wharton School and The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Law.

As both a student, and a full time employee, the biotechnology program provides flexible class availability, as well as career development opportunities. This type of attention, to both full-time and part-time students, continues to be central to my continued success in the program. Additionally, as a biotechnology student I was able to enroll in a year of independent study which I conducted with Dr. Laura A. Johnson and Dr. Carl H. June in the Perelman School of Medicine which resulted in a co-authored report in Science Translational Medicine.

Furthermore, the extra-curricular life for graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania is outstanding and provides numerous opportunities for you to expand your horizons and future career potential. I have participated in PBG Healthcare Consulting, Women in Engineering, and currently The Detkin IP and Tech Legal Clinic: Intellectual Property and Patent Law Practicum. I believe the Biotechnology program prepares its students for a plethora of careers. Having seen many classmates enter outstanding and world renowned graduate programs, to large law firms and schools, to prestigious consulting careers and industry and pharmaceutical jobs; our program demonstrates that at its core is has the ability to provide us with the tools to become key opinion leaders in whatever field we choose to enter.

Following our epic May 2016 graduation, I was able to utilize the University's Network to volunteer with community science programs in Philadelphia and surrounding summer schools.  Additionally, through connections I made as a student, I took part in GenHERation's 6 city tour in the month of July traveling to Google, Facebook, Uber, NBC, Twitter, JP Morgan, NASA and other Fortune 100 company's to meet with 150 top female executives. "If you can see it, you can be it!" Currently, I live in Houston, Texas where I am Dean's Scholar enrolled full time in the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in cooperation with UT Health and the Texas Medical Center. Additionally, I have been given the exciting opportunity to enroll part-time at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where I am taking classes in Life Science Entrepreneurship and General Management. I can say with great confidence that when I look at the opportunities and possibilities afforded to me now, choosing to attend the University of Pennsylvania is one of the best decisions I ever made and I cherish it daily.



Mark Barbagallo
Full-time Student
Fall 2014 – Spring 2016

As a full-time student within the Biotechnology program, I have been able been able to further my studies within the sciences as well as become acquainted with business concepts within the healthcare industry. Specifically, my enrollment in the seminal biotechnology engineering course taught me the manufacturing and protein engineering techniques utilized by the biopharma industry while my enrollment in a Wharton healthcare management course and an engineering entrepreneurship course exposed me to the intersection between the life sciences and business. I wholeheartedly believe that the diverse education that I received from this flexible and engaging program has prepared me for a career as a life science consultant upon my graduation.

Besides education, the Biotechnology program has also exposed me to social aspects at Penn. As an executive member of the Biotechnology Student Association (BSA), I have had the pleasure of uniting students of the program through various collegial activities such as happy hours and mixers. Through these events, I have met some of my best friends – people whom I know I will keep contact with through the rest of my life. I cannot thank the Biotechnology program enough for allowing me to explore my passions and for providing me the opportunity to engage with some of the brightest and friendliest people here at the University of Pennsylvania.

After graduating from Penn, I accepted a full-time job at a life science consulting company. Everyday, I apply the teachings and lessons that I learned from my course work through the Biotech program in my professional life.




Nikunja Kolluri
Part-time Student
Fall 2013 – Summer 2015

I recently completed my Master’s in Biotechnology at Penn in August 2015. I pursued my masters as a part-time student while I was working full-time as a Process Development engineer at Merck & Co. in Lansdale, PA. In my role at Merck, I was responsible for evaluating new technologies and process upgrades for a cell-based vaccine manufacturing process.

The classes I took at Penn complimented the work I was doing at Merck; it was an enriching experience to learn something in class and be able to directly apply it to my work almost immediately. This was specifically true for Engineering Economics with Professor Tom Cassel and Advanced Cell Biology, offered through the BIOM department and taught by various instructors. Although they were very different classes, I learned concepts in both of these classes that I could apply directly at work. The concepts I learned in Engineering Economics helped me better evaluate new technologies or concepts we were considering implementing in our manufacturing processes from a financial perspective, while the fundamental biology concepts I learned in BIOM600 helped me critically analyze experimental design and data to evaluate the technologies from a scientific perspective.

Additionally, I liked that the program offered some flexibility in the coursework: rather than requiring specific classes, having broader required subject areas which could be fulfilled with several different classes was one of the appeals of the program. This increased flexibility allowed me to tailor my degree in a way that best suited my work schedule and also allowed me to take classes that would be the most relevant for my job. Finally, the program’s “independent study” class was also beneficial—it allowed me the chance to pursue an independent project at work that was beneficial for the business while still giving me the chance to design experiments and present my research in a formal setting at Penn.

After graduating from Penn, I have enrolled full-time in a PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. I am excited for this next step in my career, and look forward to expanding on the biotechnology classes I took at Penn during this next phase of my education.


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   Master of Biotechnology Program Office
   220 S. 33rd Street, Room 311A
   University of Pennsylvania
   Philadelphia, PA 19104-6391


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