By Maeghan Holzbaur (M.S. in Commerce ’23)
For any life sciences majors who want to explore the world of business, look no further than the new Biotechnology Track as part of the M.S. in Commerce. The M.S. in Commerce offers four unique tracks in addition to the Integrated Core Experience (ICE), and I’m proud to be a part of the first cohort of the Biotechnology Track this year. The program has already allowed me to bridge the gap between my science background and aspirations in global commerce. With vast expertise in the biotechnology industry and an extensive network, Track Director Nikki Hastings offers students an incredible opportunity. While I’m only halfway through my studies in the M.S. in Commerce Program, I am confident my decision to join the Biotechnology Track was worth the investment.
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology encompasses an incredibly diverse industry full of blooming ideas and entrepreneurs who combat disease, improve global health outcomes, and reduce our environmental footprint. With thousands of biotechnology and healthcare-oriented startups around the world, there are plenty of opportunities for anyone interested in the intersection of healthcare, science, and commerce. Recent estimates predict the biotechnology industry has a market size of nearly $1 trillion, which will likely increase as private companies and governments combat public health concerns.
The University of Virginia offers world-class resources to students interested in biotechnology, with renowned faculty in engineering, life sciences, and medicine to offer support along the way. The University also offers its own Licensing & Ventures Group for innovations discovered at UVA, with many of its successful technologies belonging to the biotech sphere!
What Biotechnology courses are offered at McIntire?
All students in the M.S. in Commerce Program begin the fall semester with the Integrated Core Experience, which consists of 18 credits of business courses, before diving into their track courses in the spring.
In the second half of the fall semester, students enroll in a course for their designated track. Professor Hastings led the inaugural Frontiers of Biotechnology I seminar this fall, and we will continue with the second portion of the seminar in the spring. This course provides a wide overview of the biotechnology industry, with opportunities to network with academics and industry professionals from startups to large pharmaceutical corporations. One of my favorite parts of the Biotechnology Track is that our classes consist of students outside of McIntire. In the track’s seminar course, half of the students were Master of Engineering or Ph.D. students. The technical expertise of the Engineering and Ph.D. students complemented the business knowledge we learned as part of the Integrated Core Experience. As a result, the class was able to tackle advanced scientific and commercial concepts together, including weekly journal clubs. The seminar course culminated with student presentations, where we had to create a pitch for biotechnology investors! Professor Hastings even devoted time to practicing public speaking (the nemesis of many life science majors) to ensure students would be prepared for professional environments outside of McIntire.
To complete the track requirements, students select an additional 12 credits in the spring semester. All Biotechnology students enroll in Frontiers of Biotechnology II and Entrepreneurship & Technology Commercialization. Additionally, students must choose a Data Analytics and Science Elective (the full list can be found here). Current Biotechnology student Emma Jinks (M.S. in Commerce ’23) explains her elective choice for the spring 2023 semester: “I chose a class on public health genomics to explore the hard sciences while using the information I learned after a semester in business school.” Electives vary by semester, but students have a variety of options in the biomedical sciences and engineering departments.
Why Biotech at McIntire?
The University of Virginia offers M.S. in Commerce students the unique opportunity to study both business and biotechnology in a rigorous environment in less than a year! In addition to the resources provided by the McIntire School of Commerce and Commerce Career Services, Biotechnology students have the opportunity to network within the greater Charlottesville community. Professor Hastings is the Co-Founder of the nonprofit Cville Biohub, which aims to support the growth of the biotechnology industry in Central Virginia. She offers students a vast network of contacts throughout Virginia and beyond, with many of her contacts visiting McIntire as guest speakers for the Frontiers of Biotechnology seminars. Additionally, there are a variety of career and networking events on Grounds and in Charlottesville, with Cville Biohub hosting several events throughout the academic year. Brett Kyle (M.S. in Commerce ’23) attended one of the organization’s networking summits this year and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with local experts. “I didn’t realize how large the biotechnology community is in Charlottesville. It was great to meet so many life sciences professionals and other UVA students,” Kyle said.
The Biotechnology Track at McIntire provides a tight-knit community of motivated faculty and students who aim to change the world through science and commerce. We highly encourage interested students to attend an upcoming event, and connect with an ambassador or a member of the McIntire Graduate Admissions staff to learn more!