TWU launches new biotechnology master’s degree

TWU’s Denton campus
Interior rendering of a laboratory in the new Scientific Research Commons on TWU’s Denton campus.
June 15, 2020 — DENTON — To support one of the state’s top six industry sectors with the greatest economic growth potential — biotechnology and life sciences — Texas Woman’s University will launch a new program this fall that combines biology and business with an industry internship.

This professional science master’s (PSM) degree in biotechnology is only the second of its kind in Texas and one of only 39 in the U.S.

“Our program seeks to prepare more women, as well as our highly diverse students, to successfully pursue this lucrative biotechnology career path at a time when we’re all under the grip of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” said Chancellor Carine M. Feyten.

“Biotechnology applies biological processes for medical, pharmaceutical or clinical testing and research,” she added, “and our program will prepare the next generation of biotechnology professionals to treat, prevent and track future outbreaks of this magnitude.”

Students enrolled in this new program beginning this fall will take classes in the recently completed, state-of-the-art Scientific Research Commons on the Denton campus.

The program is led by a core team of internationally renowned faculty members from institutions including Baylor University, Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia, Ohio State University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Faculty members hold issued patents or patent applications and have experience as researchers for biotech companies and the National Institutes of Health.

“As a leading institution in Texas, this program will add to the university’s legacy of producing industry leaders and will help expand its influence,” said Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. “Additionally, it will help prepare more women to become leaders in this ever growing industry. More than 5,000 life science and research firms call Texas home, and with $5.3 billion in research and development expenditures and more than 24,000 clinical trials underway, Texas is driving innovation in healthcare research. I congratulate Chancellor Feyten and the school on this extraordinary landmark.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has touted biotechnology and the life sciences as one of Texas’ fastest growing industry sectors.

“Texas is the new frontier for discovery in the biotech industry — an industry critically important to our economy that positions the state as a global leader for biotech jobs, businesses and new technologies,” said Adriana Cruz, executive director of economic development and tourism for the governor’s office. “TWU’s new professional science master’s degree program will help to further increase our state’s pipeline of top researchers and scientists, keeping Texas on the leading edge of vital medical discoveries and innovation.”

TWU’s new biotechnology program director, Stephanie Pierce, Ph.D., said TWU’s biology department is already supporting local COVID-19 testing through the efforts of its faculty, staff, students and alumni. In April, biology faculty pooled their resources to supply Denton County Public Health with tubes of virus transport media and nasal swabs for specimen collection.

“Through our alumni and faculty networks, we’ve already formed key relationships with a number of local businesses and laboratories,” she added. “These partnerships will not only provide internship and job opportunities for our students, but will expand our ability to collaborate with them on health solutions that can do a lot of good in our community.”

For instance, TWU biology master’s program alumna Jennie Wojtaszek, now vice president of laboratory operations at HealthTrackRx, manages an infectious disease testing lab that has doubled its capacity — receiving, testing and reporting over 50,000 samples to accurately diagnose the COVID-19 pathogen. Labs like Wojtaszek’s will host future PSM program interns and graduates.

TWU will host an online, one-hour information session for prospective students at noon on June 25. To register or learn more, visit twu.edu/biotechnology. The department currently is accepting applications for the program.

Page last updated 2:41 PM, June 15, 2020 

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Source: TWU