Continuing a Biotech Education

Current student Sanjana Rao explains what appealed to her about Northwestern’s Master of Biotechnology program (MBP).

Sanjana Rao majored in biotechnology engineering at the NMAM Institute of Technology, which is affiliated with the Visvesvaraya Technological University in Karnataka in India. She knew she wanted to learn more about biotech, so she decided to attend Northwestern University for its Master of Biotechnology program (MBP).

Sanjana RaoRao is currently in her second quarter of the program. She recently took time to talk about why she was interested in MBP and what she learned during her first quarter in the program.

What was it about MBP that appealed to you?

The Master of Biotechnology program at Northwestern appealed to me because it gave me the freedom to choose specific courses and tailor my curriculum based on my interests and future goals. The program also involves an extensive research-based curriculum, which was exactly what I was looking for in a masters program. The balance between the research experience and the courses offered was unique and a major contributor to my decision to join the program.

What is it that you want to do professionally?

I am actually split between the option to join the biotechnology industry or continue on the academic path and pursue a doctorate. The MBP is a great program to explore my options and help me make a decision on my future goals. I have two years of experience in research and development in a pharmaceutical company, which gives me a great reference in terms of my career goals after MBP.

How do you think MBP will help prepare you to make that decision?

MBP gives me the opportunity to explore the research work in an academic setting and interact with a lot of current doctoral students. I am able to get their opinions and hear their experiences so far in the academic world. The professors involved in the MBP are extremely focused on giving the students the best possible opportunities for their chosen career paths and also are very helpful in helping students make decisions on what they could do next.

How important was MBP's research requirement — specifically the 1,000 hours — in your decision to attend Northwestern?

The MBP’s research requirement of 1,000 hours was an extremely important factor in my decision to attend Northwestern since I love research work. The thrill of research is something I experienced during my undergraduate experience and also during my employment in the R&D department of a pharmaceutical company. It gives me the opportunity to “change the world,” so to speak. Northwestern is a renowned institution for research projects and MBP gave me the opportunity to choose a research lab that captured my interest and do the research work that I would be invested in.

How would you describe your first quarter in the program?

My first quarter in MBP was amazing. The curriculum and the programs that MBP conducts gave me the opportunity to network with people of various experiences and backgrounds. I have made some great friends over the course of the quarter and interacted with the professors from who I’ve received invaluable advice. The courses I chose have been extremely engaging and my prospects and perspectives have broadened over the past few months.

What were one or two highlights from your first quarter?

The highlight of my first quarter was the process of choosing a research lab to work in. MBP gave me the opportunity to meet some really amazing research preceptors and talk to them about their research work. The areas of research and the facets of academic research were fascinating.

Another highlight of my first quarter was the elective I chose – NUvention Therapeutics. The course involved an entrepreneurial take on the setup of a therapeutic company or pharma company and the steps to set up a startup in the biotechnology or medical field. The course included students from the McCormick School of Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management.

What surprised you during your first quarter in the program?

The most surprising aspect of MBP was the research seminars and the process of allowing the students to choose their research preceptors. The interactions I had with various research preceptors is something I will always value, and the overwhelming knowledge I gained from these interactions has given me a whole new vision for what I want to pursue in my career. The other thing I loved about the program was the workshops we had for various team building and personal development topics and the seminars on research integrity and the ethics involved in academic research.

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