OSU among leaders for new science master’s degree bursting onto national scene

Away from home in

Away from home in India, but at home in an OSU lab, Lalithambigai Ananthan participated in OSU's new Professional Science Masters Program. (photo: University Marketing)

The chemistry fits and the potent interaction between science and business is propelling Oregon State into the forefront of a national effort to create a new professional master’s degree for the 21st century.

“This is really an exciting time,” Ursula Bechert said of the program to train graduates literate in both the science and business fields.

Bechert, director of off-campus programs for the College of Science at OSU, said the new professional science master’s degree will help managers function in an increasingly competitive, high-tech and scientific-based business world.

The PSM degree, a science-oriented version of a master’s of business administration, is now picking up speed nationally, said Bechert, who also is vice president of the National Professional Science Master’s Association.

Traditional science graduate degrees are usually narrow and focused on research, and traditional MBAs often possess little or no background in science, she said. The PSM is the perfect combination that in the past few years has evolved from a curiosity to a national trend. “It’s an idea that makes so much sense,” she said.


Ursula Bechert, director of off-campus programs for the College of Science, leads the new professional science master’s degree.

Oregon State now has one of the most complete and rigorous programs in the nation, and graduates are increasing their employability and easily finding jobs,” Bechert said.

Students in PSM programs take many of the same core science courses as traditional master of science students, but they also receive training in ethics, communications, business management and other fields.

An off-campus internship substitutes for a research thesis, allowing students to see how their science skills become applied in the world of business or government agencies.

One student, Lalithambigai Ananthan, had an undergraduate degree in biology and engineering from Anna University in India, but came to OSU specifically for its Professional Science Masters Program in applied biotechnology.

“The PSM has the right mix of science and business classes,” Ananthan said. “I’m taking courses to study molecular biology from an evolutionary perspective, but also work in marketing, management, accounting and finance. I want to get into a biotech company that does research on developing drugs and unraveling the causes of diseases such as cancer.”

Towards that goal, Ananthan hasn’t had to wait long.

She’s already doing her internship at a Eugene biotech company that develops diagnostic kits to detect mitochondrial diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer. She’s comfortable working with molecular biology and protein chemistry, and is learning new skills in her PSM program about budgets, product development and venture capital.

“This program really enables students to be productive members of the biotech field,” Ananthan said.

OSU has more than 30 graduates with the comparatively new degree, and more than 90 percent are currently employed in their field. More than three-fourths of them stay in the Pacific Northwest to practice their new skills, and two thirds remain in Oregon, Bechert said.
~ by David Stauth

A newspaper article on PSM programs throughout the nation appeared in Science Magazine.

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