GW one of first to offer professional science degree

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Last fall GW started a professional science masters program in response to pressure from industry and government leaders to expand the scope and size of the academic science industry.

This new, two-year graduate degree program, offered through the College of Professional Studies, combines advanced course work in science, math and business.

“There has been a buzz in terms of industry demands in this area (and) this program tries to address them,” said Ali Eskandarian, an associate dean in the College of Professional Studies and overseer of the PSM program at GW.

Congress and President George W. Bush have both stepped-up their efforts to keep the nation competitive in science and technology markets.

The America Competes Act – signed into law in August 2007 – aims at “strengthening our scientific education and research, improving our technological enterprise, attracting the world’s best and brightest workers, and providing 21st century job training,” according to a White House news release.

Among other things, this act provides increased funding for programs like PSM; many area universities have started offering similar degree programs.

According to a Washington Post article, at least eight schools in Virginia, Maryland and the District plan to or already offer two-year PSM degree programs, including Maryland, and Towson, American, Georgetown and Virginia Tech.

In recent years, science and technology industry leaders realized three-quarters of the students graduating with a bachelor of science degree were not working toward a PhD in science, said Mark E. Reeves, a physics professor and founding figure in GW’s PSM program.

He added these students need a program that will allow them to “climb down from the ivory tower of a dream career in the medical field” and understand how to utilize and apply their education in the industry.

Eskandarian and Reeves, along with Richard Donnelly, associate professor of information systems and technology management, developed a curriculum designed to “prepare its graduates for a variety of jobs in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.”

With small classes, internships in the field and professional advising, students can drastically expand their future career possibilities.

Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and with support from Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Donald Lehman, the PSM program accepted eight graduate students as the program’s first class in fall 2007.

“I chose the program at GW because it offered me the perfect blend of science and business to enhance the knowledge gained in my undergraduate work,” said Srishti Jain, a graduate of the University of California, Davis and one of the first students in GW’s PSM program.

Instead of focusing on one aspect of biotechnology and trying to get a career straight out of college, the PSM program provided Jain “with the tools necessary to become a business professional in the biotechnology industry.”

Though the program is in its early stages, Eskandarian, Reeves and Donnelly all said they agree the program is opening great doors for its students and the faculty.

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