Demand for medical scientists is projected to grow 10 percent in the next decade alone. These rapidly evolving career opportunities in the industry are exactly what the Biomedical Sciences Department had in mind when designing its new master’s degree program, which began accepting applications last fall for the first cohort, starting fall 2024.
“We’re building a 21st-century program rather than retrofitting something that’s been around for a while,” says Dr. David Baker, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “When you build a brand-new program from the ground up, you are better able to ensure the program addresses the needs of modern students and employers.”
A Real-World Lab on Campus
Underpinning the ambitious new program is another departmental initiative called the Collaboratory. This “collaborative laboratory” is a microcosm of a simulated for-contract industry lab, embedded within the academic department. The idea is to leverage best practices from the private sector to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery in the department’s preclinical laboratories, Baker says. By having contract-style laboratory help available, Marquette faculty members’ research labs will no longer have to learn every new technique and acquire every new piece of equipment to carry out their work themselves. With the Collaboratory picking up more of the bench work, academics get more time to devote to innovation, problem solving and translating results to clinical practice.
Baker and others developed the master’s program once they realized the great opportunity for practical experience the Collaboratory would provide students. By working in the Collaboratory, students learn what it’s like to work for a contract research organization in a corporate setting, like a pharmaceutical company, complete with real-world elements like client-customer relationships. And as they hone their laboratory research skills, they’ll be driving research forward in the department.
“Academic scientists face barriers to creating new technologies that would impact people in the community,” Baker says. “We’re creating a learning and working environment where students and faculty will work alongside one another to solve practical problems. They can take their instruction and learning to the full extent possible by inputting it into a real-world setting.”
Equipping Students for Success
Although it’s largely industry-focused, the new master’s program will equip students for a job in any type of research field, be it clinical research, biotech or even academia.
“We think academic scientists also need this training in how a research organization like an industry lab operates,” says Dr. Laurieann Klockow, clinical professor and the associate chair for instruction for the department. “We have the expertise, we know what skills we want to see, so we said, ‘Let’s build a program that equips students with those skills.’”
Some of the new biomedical sciences students will come to deepen their knowledge before pursuing a career in health care, while those interested in pursuing higher degrees can gain research experience to boost their med school and grad school applications. Others may go on to teach. The biomedical sciences master’s program offers two main tracks, one focused on research, the other on instruction. In either case, students in the Collaboratory will be put into an environment where they’ll practice and apply their skills.
“This other aspect of our curriculum is to emphasize one of our department’s biggest strengths, which is human anatomical instruction,” says Dr. SuJean Choi, associate dean for research and a professor in the department. “If students want to learn how to teach anatomy, they’ll be in the anatomy courses. They’ll be working with a faculty mentor, learning how to teach and the science of how people learn.”
In addition to these two tracks, students may choose an optional subject-matter concentration in either neuroscience or anatomy. The department hopes to add more concentrations in the future, Choi says.
A Win-Win for Biomedical Science
The synergy between the Collaboratory and the new master’s program will benefit students and faculty alike, all while advancing Marquette’s mission. “We’re always working toward the development of careers that will impact the community and the individual,” Choi says. “This is a perfect fit.”
Every aspect of the new program was built with the current job market in mind. The curriculum is designed to equip students with the skills to move directly into a career or job, rather than going on to additional graduate studies.
“We’re trying to offer something novel,” Choi says, “not just another science master’s program.”