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.

Junhong Du

Junhong Du
Full-Time Student
Fall 2019 – Spring 2021

My name is Junhong, and I am a first-year student in the Biotechnology program. I am impressed by the interdisciplinary nature of the program as it gives students flexibility of coursework, enabling students to select courses from departments like CBE, BE, CIS, and the Wharton School. Curriculum offered by the program is diverse, including courses that introduce students to more comprehensive topics, and courses that cover some more technical issues. Students can choose courses that fit their interests, and students who engage in the courses will have a better understanding for their future careers. For a master’s student, it’s not difficult to find a series of courses that fits his or her direction.

Also, Penn provides master’s students the opportunities to engage in the research areas they are interested in. Students have access to many research opportunities, which complement the work they have done in classes. The practice and experience in labs are more specialized and professional. Such an experience allows you to solve practical problems and plan your own research.  It’s amazing to shift from the focus on highly scientific and theoretical knowledge to the newest scientific development. The course “independent study” is for students who are interested in scientific research and want to develop specific laboratory skills for a future career.

The Biotechnology program is well-suited to everyone who is interested in the broad field of biology, regardless of his or her field of interest. Besides academic activities, students have many opportunities to attend internship, projects, and clubs. Our program coordinator, Courtney, always keeps us informed of these. I have not finished the program just yet, but I am excited about the upcoming semesters because you can explore so many things in this community that you can both improve your academic experience and get inspiration for your future career.

Juliet Mengaziol

Juliet Mengaziol
Part-Time Student
Fall 2019 – Spring 2021

My name is Juliet.  I’m a full-time laboratory technician and first-year student on the Biopharmaceutical/Engineering track in the Master of Biotechnology program. So far, I am very impressed by the academic diversity, career counseling, resources, and connections provided. During my first semester, I took the class CBE554: Engineering Biotechnology. With a background in molecular neuroscience, it was extremely interesting to learn how drug discovery in the biotechnology field is influenced by basic science.

In addition to earning my master’s, I am working in the Blendy Lab of the Perelman School of Medicine where we study the neurobiological basis of addiction. My current project investigates the long-term effects of Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS) in a mouse model. In the future, we aim to use this model to treat the symptoms of NOWS, with a focus on m-opioid receptor expression patterns. As someone who is familiar with the complicated nature of addiction on both personal and scientific levels, I am passionate about bringing my basic science training to the pharmacological side of addiction treatment design. I can bridge this gap through Penn’s Master of Biotechnology program. The curriculum exposes students to all aspects of the field, while also allowing us to shape our education around our specific interests. This term I am taking classes that focus on drug discovery, genome engineering, and translational neuroscience. I am learning the ins and outs of the biotechnological industries and am very excited about my future because of these opportunities. Even better, the classes offered enhance my projects in the lab, and also fit into the busy (and almost unpredictable) schedule of full-time academic research.

In addition to the academic and professional support systems I am building through this program, I am also having a lot of fun working with peers that think on the same wavelength. We are from all over the globe, all have different passions and career goals, but have lively discussions and have become really good friends. Getting the opportunity to live in Philadelphia has opened up my life and curiosities beyond the lab and classroom. Since joining the program, I have played clarinet in the Penn Med Symphony Orchestra and now I am the lead singer of a new Philly-based alternative rock band called Bad Sleeper. For anyone interested in the fields or subfields of biotechnology, no matter your background, this program will provide the mentors, classes, and support to reach your scientific potential.

Isaac Sassoon

Isaac Sassoon
Full-Time Student
Fall 2019 – Spring 2021

I came into Penn’s Master of Biotechnology program with a background in Economics and Pre-Med. During my time in undergrad, the science classes that I undertook sparked my interest in the application of biochemistry and molecular biology to clinical therapies. This program offers a comprehensive overview of biotechnology, ranging from purely engineering concepts to the business and economic aspects of the burgeoning industry. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who has an interest in getting involved in any area of biotechnology, whether it be through lab research, management, consulting, or investments.

I very much enjoyed my first semester here at Penn, and believe I have already learned a great deal about the ins and outs of biotechnology. The program can be tailored to each individual through an abundance of class options, making no two paths the same. Through my coursework thus far, I have learned the basic mechanisms by which cells communicate with each other and how to critically read scientific papers in classes such as “Cell Signaling”. Additionally, I have gained a better understanding of the myriad of engineering techniques used in biotechnology through CBE 554. Coming from a non-engineering background, I have also been able to improve my lab skills through CBE 580. This semester I am focusing more on the economic end of the industry through a Wharton class as well as a class called “Translational Therapeutics”, which outlines the process behind how scientific discoveries are commercialized. Finally, I have gained real-world experience by joining Penn Biotech Group (PBG), which is a student-run healthcare consulting club in Wharton that deals with clients in the life sciences.

As I have delved into the many different domains of biotechnology, I have grown particularly interested in the application of the immune system to fight deadly diseases such as cancer. While I am not yet entirely certain of what I intend to do after this program, I am convinced that the Master of Biotechnology will aptly prepare me to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. Until then I am looking forward to see what the rest of the program has to offer. 

Xinyue Fang

Xinyue Fang
Full-Time Student
Fall 2019 – Spring 2021

My name is Xinyue, and I am a first-year Biotechnology master’s student at Penn. Although I have only been here for one semester, I am already impressed by both the breadth and depth that Penn’s biotechnology program can reach. There is a wide range of courses free to choose, spanning from all the engineering courses under SEAS to business courses under Wharton, and everyone is able to build his/her own schedule based on individual interests and career aspirations. Personally, I had a research-intensive undergraduate experience, but I wanted to explore more of the Pharma/Biotech industry, outside of academia. I joined the program with that goal in mind, and I am surely on my way exploring deeper into the industry. I planned myself a schedule combining both science and business, and I picked classes such as Engineering Biotechnology (CBE 554) and BE 502 (From Biomedical Science to the Marketplace) for the first semester. The former furthered my scientific understanding of the industry, where I learned the principles of various biotechnologies widely utilized in the field; the latter strengthened my business sights of the industry, by completing an in-depth case study on a biotech startup, analyzing its regulatory pathways, IP portfolios, and financial aspects. I really enjoyed both classes and I think they helped me put together things I learned in the past, featured with valuable industrial and business insights. I am also working towards the Certificate of Engineering Entrepreneurship and plan to take some healthcare management courses for the next couple semesters. Therefore, I really appreciate the flexible and interdisciplinary nature of the program, and I believe everyone is able to obtain a different and tailored experience.

Other than taking classes, I am also part of the PBG consulting group. It is a great opportunity to obtain a real life-science consulting experience. Besides getting to know the healthcare industry better, I am able to appreciate the essential skills of a consultant – problem solving, team collaboration and prompt communication with the clients. It has been a great experience and it motivates me to work hard towards a career in healthcare consulting after graduation. I am looking forward to my following semesters here, digging into the industry and working towards my goals. The program really excels my expectations, and I enjoy being part of the Biotechnology family. It is a close community where we gather together and share stories during the program parties, and becoming part of it is one of the most grateful decisions I have made in my life.  

Chi Liu

Chi Liu
Full-Time Student
Fall 2019 – Spring 2021

I’m a first-year student in the Biotechnology program, focusing on Biopharmaceutical/Engineering Biotechnology. This program is a cross-disciplinary program, which provides us with very flexible options for course selection, so we can combine biotechnology with various fields according to our interests. A student can focus on the newest research in biological science, or on connecting science and technology with other fields such as business, law, or computer technology; there are limitless possibilities.

My first semester at Penn was excellent. Just having three or four courses in one semester does not mean that you learn a small amount of knowledge. Instead, you can learn much more than you expected. In Engineering Biotechnology, I learned the real application of biotechnology in industrial production. The professor, our program director Dr. Diamond, has profound wisdom and is willing to answer your academic questions, which benefits me a lot. Also, I have a deeper understanding of statistical theory from Statistics for Biology. The professor for this course introduced the teaching of the R language, which is helpful for me to conduct more accurate and efficient data processing in future scientific research. Considering my lack of programming experience, I also took Programming Languages & Techniques, which allowed me to understand the applications of popular programming languages like Python, so I could think about more possibilities for my future career.

As a student of biotechnology, you can gain a lot because this program really focuses on everyone. I had lot of valuable experiences working with 2nd year students during activities and events held by the BSA (Biotechnology Student Association). In addition, our program coordinator, Courtney, is patient, enthusiastic, and gives me detailed advice on everything from course arrangement and career planning to cultural adaptation.

All in all, there are abundant resources, excellent professors, and creative students here. Anyone who wants to learn about biotechnology or pursue any career related to biology should make this program their first choice for a master’s program. I’m honored to be a member of the MB program and looking forward to future semesters.

David Allyn

David Allyn
Full-Time Student
Fall 2018 – Spring 2020

My name is David, and I am a first-year student in the Biotechnology Master’s program. My first semester at UPenn was delightful, and I would highly recommend this program to anyone considering pursuing a Master’s in biotechnology.

The variety of classes allows students to survey the field of biotechnology and dig into the areas that they are most passionate about. Beyond exploring the purely scientific and highly technical aspects of biotechnology, the program instills a grounded sense of the industry and maintains a practical focus on career development. The instructors have true expertise in the subjects they teach, and demonstrate passion as educators. There is tremendous diversity in the backgrounds and aspirations of fellow students, and a strong sense of community within the program and within the School of Engineering and Applied Science in general.

Given the flexible nature of the program, each student’s experience is unique. I chose to structure my curriculum around my interests in stem cell technology, immune therapy, neuroscience, and entrepreneurship. One class I have been particularly enjoying is Engineering Entrepreneurship. In this course, we learn how new business ventures in the high-tech space can be successful. I was delighted to find a class focused on entrepreneurship for scientists and engineers with little background in business.

In addition to coursework, students in the program are exposed to innumerable opportunities for employment and intellectual growth. Our program coordinator, Courtney, does a fantastic job keeping us apprised of internships, projects, and research positions. In my first five months, I have enjoyed a variety of activities outside the classroom, including student-led consulting projects and lab research at the Wistar Institute.

The program excels in its broad approach to biotechnology. It is well-suited to anyone interested in the field, regardless of their career goals. My experience so far has been nothing short of incredible, and I can’t wait to see where the next three semesters take me.

Sarah McCarron

Sarah McCarron
Part-Time Student
Fall 2018 – Spring 2020

The Master of Biotechnology Program here at Penn offers unrivaled flexibility and specialization in any of three concentrations: molecular biology, biopharmaceuticals, and medical devices. I am a full-time employee of the Department of Translational Medicine and initially started taking classes in a non-degree program while working on my biotechnology program application. Choosing classes pre-approved for the biotech curriculum made the transfer of credit process seamless. My first class as a full-fledged biotechnology master’s student was Engineering Biotechnology (CBE554) a comprehensive course that introduces cross-disciplinary skills and techniques applicable to a variety of specialized careers. This course was well paced for both those new and experienced in biotech.

As I progressed, I customized my roster to focus on genetics and cell biology with the intention of perusing a career in agricultural biotech and plant science. The biotech program administrators supported me through the registration of Plant Physiology (BIOL469) and an independent study in Plant Epigenetics (BIOT599) as approved courses. The program continues to grow and meet current needs and new courses are introduced periodically such as Genome Engineering (CBE517) and The Biochemical Engineering of Wine (CBE556), both of which were outstanding additions to the curriculum – especially for someone with interesting in genetically modified plants!

As a part-time student and full time researcher, time management is critical for me. The classes offered in the program are not only diverse and interesting, but easily integrated into my daily routine. Evening classes that are once a week make up a large part of the approved curriculum, and the environment at UPenn is such that my PI encourages me to take the best classes, regardless of the time slot, because he knows the experience will positively impact our lab’s productivity as I can offer fresh insight after exploring new subjects. We even collaborated on a BIOT599 independent study in translational medicine together to maximize the benefit of being both a student and a researcher.

This program is undeniably a great fit for my schedule, my current research, and most importantly for my future career. As I approach graduation, I know I’ve received the best education from faculty at UPenn that truly care about the success of individuals in all backgrounds.

Jiadai Ma

Jiadai Ma
Full-Time Student
Fall 2018 – Spring 2020

Being in the Masters of Biotechnology Program, I am constantly impressed by all kinds of resources Penn offers to not only enrich our knowledge, but also build networks and foster personal growth. Prior to graduate school, I did research at two institutional laboratories focusing on molecular biology/immunology. Through collaboration with a pharmaceutical company on a research project, I became interested in other aspects of this biopharmaceutical industry besides research. I wanted to join an interdisciplinary program that can help me build a more comprehensive understanding of the industry. And Penn’s biotechnology program is the one.

Classes offered by the program span a wide range of topics that we can choose to fit our own interests. During my first year, I particularly enjoyed the class Vaccines and Immune Therapeutics (CAMB609) offered under Perelman School of Medicine. We had distinguished guest lecturers from renowned institutions, industries as well as FDA to share their knowledge in the field of their specialties. It was a great learning experience as well as a good networking opportunity. In another class, From Biomedical Sciences to the Marketplace, we went through the lifecycle of a biotech startup from innovative idea to market exit. It was fascinating to see how many other factors play critical roles in the success of a company beyond a good technology. As my interest in the business aspect of the industry grows, I took classes such as Engineering Economics and Engineering Entrepreneurship to prepare myself to take an interdisciplinary career role in the future as I wish. These courses are extremely useful, what we learned comes in handy at work/internship. I was able to make a leap to do an internship in equity research focusing on biopharmaceutical industry, which was pretty adventurous and rewarding. Penn’s Biotechnology program opens the door to more opportunities.

Outside of classrooms, Penn offices and student organizations provide various resources and platforms to help students succeed in many ways. The Career Services Center holds multiple workshops and organizes career fairs including one that is particularly for life sciences. Penn innovation center has specialized team to help student entrepreneurs. I joined PBG Healthcare Consulting, a student-run consulting group under Wharton where I gained my first consulting experience with real-life clients. There are so many possibilities on this dynamic campus. I’m looking forward to my last couple months at Penn. I’m sure the people I met and my experience here will lighten up my future a little more.

Samip Sheth

Samip Sheth

Samip Sheth
Full-time Student
Summer 2017 – Spring 2018

My experience as a submatriculant into Penn’s Master of Biotechnology Program was excellent. The program gave 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 enlarged and deepened my interest in biotechnology.

To nurture my interest, I relied on the programming, resources, faculty, and facilities on Penn’s campus. For example, the advisors at Career Services sharpened my interviewing skills. Many faculty members, 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 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 relied on our biotechnology academic advisor, various faculty members, and friends and peers. Additionally, while having led the Engineering Masters Advisory Board, I was introduced to a new community of students. Together, we’ve been all forging our own paths while thinking about the future of an emerging field. What I learned 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 program graduate while having prepared myself for medical school at Georgetown University.

Jamila Hoque

Jamila Hoque

Jamila Hoque
Part-time Student
Summer 2016 – Spring 2018

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

Nan (Carina) Cheng

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

Suraj Bharadwaj

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.

Caitlin Ward

Caitlin Ward

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

Peter Saira

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

Ken Hampshire

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

Alexandria (Alex) Cogdill

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

Mark Barbagallo

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

Nikunja Kolluri

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.