Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences – Q&A with Daniel Chatham

Guest Post by Daniel Chatham from KGI.edu

This year marks the tenth graduating class at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (KGI).  This is occasion to provide an update about what the school has become and what direction it is going.  Today KGI is emerging as a center of excellence for the life sciences industry through innovation and continued success of alumni.

In 1997 KGI was founded on the idea that scientists and engineers that understand business in life sciences industries make better decisions and are better managers than business people with no scientific background.  That is still our premise and all of our academic programs require a deep understanding of science as prerequisite for admission.

Today however, students with diverse interests all can achieve their career goals through the educational experience and networking opportunities at KGI.  I’d like to update you now on the complete portfolio of programs and tell you about the future at KGI.

Masters of Bioscience

This is the flagship program at KGI and one of the very first Professional Science Masters (PSM) degrees in the world.  The program continues to be a benchmark used by other schools that are starting programs.  Indeed I quit counting the number of times academic colleagues tell me they have downloaded our entire curriculum and have studied it in preparation for their own program.

That isn’t to say ours is the only PSM model out there and we do not profess to have the “best” model.  It is however, very successful at developing business skills and providing networks to those entering the life science industry.  The economic climate since 2008 has been challenging, to say the least.  The summer 2010 graduates were 93% employed as of February 2011.

One important factor in professional skill development and even job opportunities is the Team Masters Project.  This is KGI’s year long, team consulting project for a real industry client.

In the beginning the teams were exclusively second year MBS students, and then select first year students could join on a limited basis, and the occasional undergraduate student from Harvey Mudd could participate (Harvey Mudd is ranked in the top 15 for undergrad science and engineering liberal arts colleges in the US). Now MBS students are also able to work with a PhD team member that is a student in our newest degree program, the PPM.

Postdoctoral Professional Masters

The PPM program is a one year professional masters program that requires all participants already hold a PhD or MD as a prerequisite for admission.  KGI hopes to help address the “postdoc problem” in the US with this first of its kind program.  We hope other institutions will also model degrees after this program as has been the case with the MBS.  The PPM program is for scientists and engineers that wish to transition from an academic track to an industry path.

In its third intake, program applications increased over 400% since last year.  The participants study two semesters in the business courses our MBS students have long enjoyed.  Each PPM student also participates in a TMP project as described above.  They learn much from the MBS students, even if they have a more advanced science education.

Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Certificate: the PPC program is a one year certificate program for students planning to enter a US medical school, and requires a science background.  The intent of this program is to help science majors prepare for medical school and help them achieve that goal.  The program has built in an option to apply for transfer into the MBS program for a further 1.5 years study and earn the MBS degree.  The focus on science backgrounds and degree completion option make this program relatively unique among postbac programs.

Research Experience for Undergraduates

This is a subsidized summer experience for undergrad science majors to conduct research at KGI facilities.  There are 5-15 slots and over 100 apply for the program.  This is a good way to build increase research experience for undergraduate students planning on a career in science.  Depending on funding, this program may be open to international participants in a given year.

What is next at KGI?

In the future, personalized medicine will disrupt the healthcare system in every area, from diagnosis to delivery.  This disruption will have a profound effect on the delivery of medicines and patient management too.  The pharmacist of tomorrow will look very different than today’s pharmacist and KGI expects they will play a far more active role in managing health outcomes and in managing the pharmaceutical enterprise.

KGI is in the very early stages of designing a new school of biopharmaceutical science that will educate pharmacists in the scientific as well as business skills they will need to lead this fundamental shift in medicine.  We are seeking initial funding that would allow us to begin creating this new school at KGI with hopes of enrolling the first students in 2013 or 2014.  There will be significant overlap between the two schools at KGI and students will greatly benefit from the expanded resources that will bring.

Daniel Chatham is Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences and a member of the board of directors of the National Professional Science Masters Association.  He has been in graduate and business school admissions since 2001 and is on twitter at @danielchatham.


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