Published April 14, 2014
University at Buffalo biotechnology students are getting a taste of real-world careers by touring local organizations where their degrees may soon be put to good use.
During their final semester, undergraduates in the one-credit course MedTech 445, Biotechnology Career Preparation, can learn directly from professionals at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute; private firms, including Zeptometrix; and government facilities, such as the Buffalo Police forensic lab.
Sixteen students recently toured Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Grand Island facility and observed firsthand that the biotechnology field offers far more than laboratory work.
“We try to give the students an appreciation for the multiple career paths available to them,” says Stephen F. Gorfien, PhD, senior director of bioproduction research and development.
Biotech professionals may be involved in manufacturing; research and development; quality control and assurance; regulatory affairs; marketing and sales; or patent development, for example.
“The students really enjoy seeing all the possibilities,” says Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, PhD, professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences, who directs UB’s biotechnology undergraduate program.
Thermo Fisher’s 50,000 global employees include several UB alumni, as well as student interns who may be hired full time.
The $17 billion firm, headquartered in Waltham, Mass., makes an array of scientific instruments, equipment and supplies, including software, chemicals, microscopes and robots.
Rittenhouse-Olson finds that local firms have been very supportive of UB’s biotechnology program and its students.
“They’re very good mentors to help young professionals entering the workforce,” she says.
The program, in turn, is helping employers acquire the people they need while preparing students well for future success.
Based on survey responses, nearly half of UB’s 2013 biotechnology graduates are employed in a related field; the rest are pursuing graduate or professional study.