Training for a Science-Smart Workforce

Innovative businesses need savvy employees, people who know science and understand commerce, people like Bill Becker and Akihide Takagi. They are taking advantage of OSU’s Professional Science Master’s Program, which fills a labor-pool need, combining business courses with science and providing students with new career choices.

Becker, 48, is on leave from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. “What I really want to do is get into management, get more involved at the organizational level,” he says. “But I’m a scientist. I don’t have much experience in business. I needed a non-thesis program with internship possibilities. This program fit me from the get-go.”

In 2005, Takagi, 26, was one of the PSM program’s first six graduates. He had received his bachelor’s in microbiology from OSU in 2003 and wanted to work in biotechnology. “Development of new therapeutics and diagnostic techniques requires people to have both science and business,” he says. Takagi started work in April as a medical representative for Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in Japan.

Begun in 2001 with a $400,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, the program has 22 students working in four tracks: botany, environmental science, biotechnology and physics. They combine technical work with classes in research ethics, business management and communication. And they are a diverse group, coming from Asia, Africa and throughout the United States.

Ursula Bechert manages the program in the colleges of Science and Agricultural Sciences and says that students work in teams on case studies with off-campus organizations. “Industry would love to see some of our graduates enter into their workforce because they can serve as liaisons between the scientific and business communities, understand basic marketing concepts and communicate with customers on a more realistic level,” she says.

* Professional Science Master’s Program