Bioprocessing Adjuncts Share Expertise at Forefront of Industry
Keck Graduate Institute offers one of the nation's largest master's degree programs in bioprocessing—and the only one at the interface of science, engineering, and business. A key strength is the program's talented pool of current industry leaders who form the adjunct faculty.
"They bring a lot of real-world experience and knowledge of what's going on in the industry," says Matthew S. Croughan, PhD, KGI's George B. and Joy Rathmann Professor and director of the Amgen Bioprocessing Center.
As KGI's sole full-time professor in bioprocessing, Croughan also maintains strong ties to industry, continuing to work one day a week as an independent consultant for numerous leading firms. He launched the bioprocessing focus track—the second-largest area of study in the Master of Bioscience (MBS) program—shortly after joining KGI in 2006.
Croughan taught nearly all of the focus track courses the first year. To complement the program, he recommended that students take an operations management course at Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School taught by adjunct professor Tathagata Dasgupta, PhD—who is also executive vice president and partner of Xavor Corporation, where he leads the Management Consulting Services Group. Soon Croughan recruited Dasgupta to become an official KGI adjunct as well, and he has continued to grow the program ever since.
Preparing the Next Generation
The Amgen Bioprocessing Center prepares the next generation of business leaders in bioprocessing—"a field that addresses some of the greatest challenges facing mankind, including biofuels, global warming, health care, and bioterrorism," notes Croughan. Approximately 40 students are in the program at any given time, with some 15 to 20 graduating each year.
"What motivates me to remain an adjunct is the enthusiasm and appreciation that continues to come my way from the students," says Dasgupta.
Fellow adjunct Ken Lydersen, director of research at Irvine Scientific, agrees. "The main reward is the opportunity to interact with the students, and to feel that I am contributing to their future as others contributed to my career when I was a grad student."
Croughan and the adjunct faculty not only train students in the science of bioprocessing, but they also incorporate a thorough business curriculum. The result is expert bioprocessing graduates as business savvy as any MBA recipient.
Adjunct Rick Johnston, PhD, who teaches Fundamentals of Commercial Biotech Operations, notes KGI's unparalleled integration of business and science. As principal of Bioproduction Group Inc., he consults for large biopharmaceutical manufacturers, helping them improve operations, increase efficiency, reduce risk, and maximize manufacturing facility output.
"[KGI's] unique focus on these issues, as well as bioprocessing fundamentals, means students come out of the program knowing a significant amount about these burning issues facing biomanufacturing, as well as a level of detail that distinguishes them from MBAs or those having 'non-specific' industry knowledge," says Johnston. "This makes them very valuable to biopharmaceutical manufacturers."
Graduates of the program are indeed in great demand, with most garnering positions at leading pharmaceutical companies. Others are placed in major consulting and biofuel companies, while some continue on to doctoral programs or medical school.
An integral part of student preparation is the Team Masters Project, which provides students with opportunities to work on real-life corporate projects. David Vetterlein, PhD, who knew Croughan from their mutual time at Genentech, was recruited by Croughan early on as a member of the Amgen Bioprocessing Center Advisory Board and observed numerous TMP project presentations. Two years ago, he became an adjunct TMP advisor.
"I feel we are giving the students a competitive edge in the job market," says Vetterlein, principal and founder of Alliance BioProcess Consulting. "I had to wait until I had a job in industry before I learned how different it was from academia. It took many years and was a harder transition than it needed to be. Hopefully I can help make this transition a little easier for the students at KGI."
All the bioprocessing adjuncts take joy in sharing their expertise with future generations.
"The program is much stronger because we have so many great adjuncts," says Croughan. "They are not doing this for the money. Teaching only pays a fraction of their regular consulting rates. They are doing this for love."
By Susan Wampler