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New pharmaceutical degree to meet needs of regional employers

January 22, 2020 By Katie Nelson

A blend of science curriculum and professional skills, the new University of Wisconsin–Madison Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences: Applied Drug Development prepares students for in-demand jobs in Dane Country and across the region spanning from Minneapolis through Madison to Chicago. This degree promises to offer students a wide variety of career choices in the pharmaceutical field.

“Our graduate coursework is practical and applied, taught by UW faculty and industry experts from the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry, UW and other campuses to provide the proper expertise and instruction,” says Eric Buxton, program director of the MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of Pharmacy. “It is a rigorous curriculum that will prepare students for a career in a rapidly changing, yet growing field.”

The 31-credit degree within the top-ranked School of Pharmacy is designed to be completed in one year and is conducted both online and on campus. With its accelerated timeline, the program benefits new or recent grads in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, and chemical engineering looking to complete a “fifth year” before entering the job market. The first cohort will start the program in September 2020.

“The program is accelerated to allow students a fast path to employment and can also be taken at a slower pace if desired. Ultimately the program will be entirely online, but the current version allows the convenience of distance learning as well as the traditional student classroom experience,” says Buxton. “The lab was designed with industry feedback to maximize the physical skills required to be successful in a modern laboratory.”

UW–Madison consulted with industry partners to create a curriculum that develops the skills and abilities they seek in applicants. Donald L. McKenzie, executive director of Global Metabolism and Environmental Science at Covance, notes that the hands-on, laboratory elements incorporated into UW–Madison’s program is especially valuable.

“The ability to hire and on-board new colleagues with real-world experiences is extremely valuable,” says McKenzie. “The program was designed to give students skills that they can use starting on day one. This will reduce the training periods and make new graduates more productive, sooner.”

Courses focus on developing the practical and professional skills needed across the lifecycle of drug development, manufacturing, and ongoing safety management. Students will graduate with an understanding of the industry along with basic skills like pipetting, data analysis and critical thinking. The Working in a Regulated Environment course has local industry partners particularly excited, as it’s rare to find a semester-long course focused on this important topic.

“Since graduates of this program get a solid foundation in industry standards and regulations in the pharmaceutical industry, they will certainly have the ability to get up to speed quickly on the type of work we do,” says Augusto Perez, HR manager at Catalent Pharma Solutions. “Besides technical competencies, the ability to be agile learners and make decisions fast with little data is critical.”