Team Master's Projects culminates another year at KGI
While the idea of Keck Graduate Institute’s Masters of Bioscience (MBS) degree is one part of what makes the graduate institution unique because of the integration of life science, engineering and business curriculum, there is another aspect of the KGI experience that gives the school a distinct appeal.
Dressed in formal attire, nearly 50 KGI students brought their Team Master's Projects to a conclusion with presentations that began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The lecture room in KGI’s Building 517 contained PowerPoint presentations from various teams on an assortment of topics that included the evaluation of alternative methods for leptin production, evaluation of delivery systems for chronic therapy in diabetes and obesity, optimization of reagents for homogeneous EMIT immunoassays and many more.
“It is very rewarding to see the progress students made during the year, to see the smiling faces of the liaisons and to receive good feedback from the sponsors,” said KGI associate professor James Sterling, who also is the director of the Team Master's Project. “It is a nice culmination to the year and to see all the presentations in one place—it’s great to see that they all came together nicely.”
The Team Master's Project (TMP) is the capstone activity for KGI’s second-year students in the MBS program. Teams of students work with sponsoring companies to solve real problems while being advised by a KGI faculty member and an industry liaison. Amylin, Beckman Coulter, BrainScope, Clear Springs, Dow AgroSciences, Gilead, Navigant, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Syngenta and Theravance were the sponsor companies involved in this year’s TMP offering.
Problem solving, project management, productive teamwork and effective communication skills are components that the TMP emphasizes as the 4 areas relate to real experiences in the bioscience industry. According to KGI students, those skills are what are enhanced after going through the TMP process.
“The kind of projects TMP offers are ones that no one can individually address,” KGI student Sanket Borad explained. “It is the skill sets of the students combined together that allows us to address the needs of the company. If I did my own master’s thesis, I would be more in isolation but that is not how things work [in the industry]. In TMP, you work together and you get a good idea of how things work in a real operation.”
Along with Mr. Borad, Aanchal Kamra (KGI), Jayasri Prabakaran (KGI), Parvin Rastegar (KGI), Tirso Alvarez Carrera (Pitzer College), Oliver Johnson (Harvey Mudd College), Autumn Petros-Good (Harvey Mudd College) and Natt Supah (Harvey Mudd College) rounded out the student involvement in the Automated Inspection Systems for Pharmaceutical Products project that was a joint effort along with Harvey Mudd College. KGI covered more of the business aspect of the project while Harvey Mudd College contributed significantly from the engineering side.
“[Harvey Mudd College] really made a big contribution to the project and we all really worked well as a team,” Mr. Borad pointed out.
The two goals of the project—that saw the students work with Gilead—were to evaluate and make recommendations for the purchase of a manufacturing-scale automated inspection system for parenteral products and also to design a system to detect and count cosmetic defects in pills for quality assurance purposes.
While Mr. Sterling and Harvey Mudd College professor Ruye Wang were faculty advisors for the specific project, Tarquinus Bunch and Dr. Gerard Jensen were the corporate liaisons from Gilead that worked with the students. Mr. Bunch felt that the students’ non-biased approach to the project made it one that was worthwhile for the San Dimas-based company.
“Coming in from a neutral perspective, they could see the pros and cons of what we were doing,” he said. “When you’re in the company, sometimes you will try to make things work—even though it is destined to fail—because you feel that’s your baby. Working with the students, you know you’re going to get good information whether it is positive or negative and that is of value to us.”
Yet, according to Mr. Bunch, the company isn’t the only entity that is benefited from the TMP.
“They are working with real world problems,” the scientist explained. “Academic research is critical but what the students are dealing with when they work with us are real problems that need real solutions. Because of this experience, they’ll be a better candidate when they come out of the program.”
A reception was held after all the project presentations were finished on Wednesday. The tense and serious mood that was within the lecture hall became a laid back and relaxed environment during the reception as the students were thrilled that the presentation segment was finished.
“I feel like now that I’ve accomplished this goal, I am now enabled and validated to take on projects of greater magnitude,” said KGI student Victor Chiu.