The past five years have been transformative for the Applied Life Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass). During this period a $95M investment in state-of-the art equipment housed in 30 core facilities operated by PhD-level center directors and over $400M in new research buildings has revolutionized the research capacity at our institution. This massive infrastructure growth has been matched with the hiring of over 50 new faculty in the life sciences. During this tremendous expansion we have developed the Biotech Training Program (BTP) in Applied Life Sciences, which leverages campus investments to provide outstanding training to a talented group of graduate students to prepare them for careers in the Biotech workforce and related areas. This training is guided by these objectives: 1) create a scholarly and social environment to facilitate new and strengthen existing interdisciplinary networks at UMass, particularly those at the interface of engineering and the life sciences; 2) educate students in the fundamentals of quantitative biotechnology through lecture and laboratory courses; 3) train students in the commercial impact of biotechnology through a tailored industrial internship and regular interactions with industrial personnel; 4) provide students with opportunities to improve interdisciplinary communication, expand career opportunities, and sharpen professional skills; and 5) increase the number of students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, who pursue careers in biotechnology. BTP faculty are recruited not by departmental affiliation, but by membership in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), their research in biotechnology and their commitment to student training. For this reason, the UMass BTP recruits students from ten PhD programs: Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Microbiology, Molecular & Cell Biology, Polymer Science & Engineering and Veterinary & Animal Sciences. We request ten Trainee slots (matched with three and a half slots annually from UMass). Traineeships are awarded to students for the 2nd and 3rd years of study during which students complete the BTP curriculum. Innovative features include the Frontiers in Biotechnology course that is co-taught by industry personnel; specialized Laboratory Modules in biotechnology-relevant techniques modeled after professional industry workshops; student-run Journal Club to break down discipline barriers; a new course in Quantitative Biology, Biostatistics & Data Science to promote modern data analysis fluency for all trainees; leadership in campus recruiting efforts for a diverse student population and accessibility to disabled students; an annual Fall Symposium in Biotechnology that offers a unique Biotech Battles experience where students solve real-world problems guided by industry experts; and targeted partnering with the UMass Office of Professional Development to provide career exploration and planning for our students. We have established numerous industrial partnerships to support the hallmark of our BTP, a formal internship in which all Trainees participate. Together this comprehensive training program prepares students well for a variety of careers in biotechnology.
The ability to design, control and engineer materials and biological systems drives the development of innovative knowledge, tools and processes for advanced biotechnology in the pharma, medical devices and diagnostics industries. To achieve this goal, we must train the next generation of innovators who can be productive members of interdisciplinary teams working to translate fundamental science into products and services for human health. The UMass Amherst Biotechnology Training Program in Applied Life Sciences will continue to provide students from a variety of life sciences and engineering/physical sciences backgrounds with novel training in biotechnology, inspiring them to consider industrial relevance and translational science, and preparing them to enter the workforce with an integrated perspective about the role of biotechnology in society.