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BS+experience vs MS

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BS+experience vs MS

Postby Brian » Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:27 pm

I've read in several places that one of the only advantages of a MS over a BS in bio is you would probably advance at a faster track. But on the bench they both have the same glass ceiling. I know other departments/sectors(?) have better outlooks, but it seems like everyone starts on the bench.

My question is in regards to going back and getting a MS. After working in industry for a couple years with a BS is there any point in going back for anything other than a PhD? It seems like my experience weighs as much if not more than a fresh MS grad. (I actually spent a couple years in grad school, but had to leave for personal reasons)

I don't think I am obsessed enough to go into a PhD program, so I realize that I will eventually have to leave the bench for more greener pastures. I just want to make sure I am as marketable as I can be when I try to move on.

[Sometimes I wish I had gone into chemistry or engineering, at least then my degree would have counted for something :) ]

Thanks,
Brian
Brian
 

BS+experience vs MS

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:20 pm

Brian,

You'd have to nail-down a specialty field that you want to be in before the question "BS or MS" makes sense. In other words, if you want to do bench science, you may get a little boost out of the MS but not a huge one. You'll be working for a PhD, so what is the difference? In some companies, you'd get some independent research work with the MS, but not in many others.

But, if you wanted to work in bio-manufacturing, having the MS may result in a faster move to management. Or, same with Quality and some other disciplines inside these companies. Yes, you are right that a Chemical Engineer can do quite well with a MS, but those are different jobs entirely. If you like those jobs, become a "process biologist" -- a person with expertise in both the equipment and the biology at work inside bioreactors and fermentors. Those folks get paid very well, and the work is very challenging. Plus, a MS level "process biologist" can make a big impact and go right to the VP level.

So, I guess the long and the short of it is that you need to identify some areas off the bench that you could excel in, and then plan from there.

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BS+experience vs MS

Postby Brian » Thu Nov 04, 2004 7:51 pm

I don't believe I've ever heard of a "process biologist." Do you have any more info on this type of position? I've always been interested in the technology aspect of biotech and my current position is in biosensor development. What type of studies would be apropriate for a process biologist? bioengineering...biophysics...regular engineering...plain old molecular or micro? Thanks, you have always been a great help.

Brian
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BS+experience vs MS

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Nov 04, 2004 9:14 pm

Hi Brian,

A process biologist has always been called something else, ie fermentation specialist, bioprocessing specialist, etc. I used this as an example of non-bench research work for the MS, and not a specific recommendation for you because I didn't know the specifics of your background.

There are lots of biotech companies who have a compound that they are trying to get made into a drug. The team of people who work on this are called process development staff, and they do what is called "scale-up" work. This is fascinating work. You take what the R&D people give you and try and make enough of it to go into clinical trials -- to develop a process that will be efficient, cost-effective and safe so that it gets approved by the FDA. To do this, companies employ a variety of people, many of them are PhD's but there are a fair number with MS degrees in disciplines like Cell Biology, Chemical Engineering, Microbiology, etc.

There are many routes to this kind of work, that's why its a bit hard to target. Example: a MS level cell biologist who becomes a "process biologist" is a person who has worked around bioreactors, and who knows what is necessary to get cells to grow in culture in these big tanks. He or she can either have a key role in the process development or they can simply be a "pair of hands" in the pilot plant. (A pilot plant is the very small version of the manufacturing facility, developed for the purpose of making small batches of material and for testing the process that is developed). How far you go in process development depends upon your skills, but it is one field where you are really not restricted by PhD as a 'must have.'

If you are in biosensors, see what you can read about sensors that are being developed to determine the status of cells and/or microbes in culture in bioreactors and fermentors. This would be one field that a person with your background could enter, although a rarified niche.

The best MS to combine with a BS in Biology for process development would be a MS in Chemical or Biochemical Engineering.

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