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ABSTRACT: In contrast to the narrowing of options in academic careers, the bioscience industry offers robust employment opportunities for STEM-trained workers, especially those who display both scientific and business talent. Unfortunately, traditional science programs typically lack curricular features that develop this type of worker. The North Carolina State University Master of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB) program facilitates industry-specific experiential learning to fill this training gap. Similar programs often rely on a single industry internship to provide students relevant work experience, but completion of one internship might not suffice to position students for employment in a highly competitive job market. The MMB program requires students to complete an internship and three practicum projects in an industry setting, to promote development of key skills in a variety of areas, to build confidence in the ability to perform initial job duties, and to establish a more extensive work history in industry. In this Perspective we discuss an unmet need in undergraduate and graduate STEM education that can be filled by incorporating a similar set of industry-specific work experiences for students who desire to transition from academe into the life science industry.

ABSTRACT: We have developed a cooperative-learning, case studies project model that has teams of students working with biotechnology professionals on company-specific problems. These semester-long, team-based projects can be used effectively to provide students with valuable skills in an industry environment and experience addressing real issues faced by biotechnology companies. Using peer-evaluations, we have seen improvement in students’ professional skills such as time-management, quality of work, and level of contribution over multiple semesters. This model of team-based, industry-sponsored projects could be implemented in other college and university courses/programs to promote professional skills and expose students to an industry setting. 

ABSTRACT: The biotechnology industry has a need for business-savvy scientists; however, this is not the way scientists are traditionally trained at universities and colleges. To address this need, universities have developed Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree programs that offer advanced training in a technical field along with professional skills development through team-based projects and internships. Nearly ten years ago, the Department of Microbiology at NCSU started a PSM program in Microbial Biotechnology (MMB). This article provides an overview of the MMB program, and shares some of the lessons that we have learned.