PSM programs are geared to students who already have
scientific backgrounds and are interested in careers in industry.
These programs include business classes focused on life science and other industry areas.
Choosing a PSM program meant I would have to
learn about the business side to science. I was ner-
vous, since I had no type of business background
(I never even took economics). However, since I
enrolled I have had not only science classes but
also business classes in bioscience strategy and
introductory finance and accounting principles. I
have also taken on an independent research project
combining the laboratories from Western University
of Health Sciences and KGI.
Most importantly, I have learned how to be a profes-
sional in the scientific community. I have four different
résumés (highlighting different skills), have done mock
interviews (and actual interviews for biotechnology compa-
nies), have gone to several team building and project man-
agement seminars, and just completed a summer internship
with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
I have always loved science, and I eventually want to earn a
Ph.D., but now I can be more successful in the scientific community. I know how to market myself and make myself successful
in the life science industry because of my PSM.
Kelly Gross will complete the PSM degree program at KGI in
2013 and then hopes to continue her studies in KGI’s Ph.D.
program in pharmacology. She earned a B.S. in biochemistry
from Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX.
The Terminal Master’s
I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, and like many
other students, I was ready to go off to college and be on my own.
Well, things were not as I had imagined, and adjusting to college
life was a struggle.
College was not where I wanted to be at that moment, so I left
without a degree and almost $30,000 in debt. I got a job to support myself and started paying off the college debt, but always felt
that I had unfinished business. Eventually, I enrolled at a community college and then transferred to Illinois State University (ISU)
and earned B.S. degrees in biochemistry/molecular biology and
At ISU, as I was reading descriptions of different areas of
research, work with Leishmania (a parasite that causes leishmaniasis disease) caught my interest.
This research experience opened my eyes to a possible research
career in biochemistry. However, with a B.S. degree, I didn’t feel
that I had enough experience yet. The idea of earning a Ph.D. was
tempting, but as a nontraditional student, I wasn’t sure I was up
for the challenge. Instead, I applied to the terminal Master of Sci-
ence program at ISU and continued to conduct research in Marjo-rie Jones’ lab.
The past two years in the M.S. program have had their ups and
downs. The coursework is tough, and research does not always
work. In addition, I am a teaching assistant, which requires me to
assist in undergraduate labs, grading, and tutoring.
In the end, however, it was worth it! I’ve made some great
friends, improved my communication skills, and had real access to
research equipment. Most importantly, the program further developed my problem-solving skills and confidence. With a terminal
M.S. degree, I am ready to step into industry and will also be ahead
of the curve when I pursue a Ph.D.
Victoria H. Nguyen graduated in May 2012 from Illinois State
University with an M.S. in chemistry. She is working as a
polymer synthesis intern at Valspar Corporation in Marengo, IL.
Finding Your Niche
“Why?” When it came to choosing chemistry as a career, the question, rather than the answer, came easily to me. I had always been
curious, and through chemistry, I felt I could find how and why
things work. The more I studied chemistry, the more I got asked
by those around me who were not in the field to share with them
what I knew. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue graduate
I had participated in REU programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) and Penn State. Both experiences allowed me
to learn and participate in outreach activities. Most importantly, I
was able to do research in what ultimately became my field: materials chemistry. I found a niche in a field that combines fundamental, interdisciplinary, and practical research.
When it came to choosing a graduate program, I wanted a
school where I could do more than research during my Ph.D. training, so I did extensive research. I learned that UW-M has been a pioneer in science communication for many years, and I knew it was a
good fit. I also learned that, as a graduate student pursuing materials chemistry, I could earn a minor in life sciences communication
or a science teaching certificate by taking some additional classes.
To me, this is more than ideal, considering that I truly love doing
research, but I love talking about my research to nonscientists even
more. I can see myself working as a science educator by teaching,
writing, or working in chemistry outreach programs where I can
communicate scientific knowledge in terms that everyone can
Jaritza Gómez-Zayas did her undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. She is finishing her first year as a Ph.D. student in materials chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.;