Once a year, students in the Professional Sciences Master’s in Biotechnology (PSM) venture out on an Academic Global Immersion (AGI) trip. The AGI is a hands-on chance for students to directly experience and engage with the larger world of biotechnology. Previous trips include San Diego, Washington D.C., Australia, the UK (London, Oxford and Cambridge), Puerto Rico, and most recently, Switzerland.
Jessica Salas ‘18, a recent graduate of the PSM in Biotechnology program, went on the trip. She now holds a full-time position as a research associate scientist at Denali Therapeutics in South San Francisco. She reflects on her experiences and on how the program has prepared her for post-graduation.
Tell me about the trip to Switzerland?
My favorite thing about the trip was to travel abroad with colleagues and visit biotech giants Roche and Novartis. Novartis is practically a small city within a city, so having the opportunity to tour the campus was incredible.
What stood out from those visits?
The companies there are practicing biotech that aims to benefit millions of people globally. The biggest hurdle for those companies is, first, trying to better understand through research what exact treatments are needed around the world, and second, finding a way to mitigate the cost so that the benefits can serve underdeveloped countries.
What were some important takeaways from the trip?
I learned that the biotechnology industry has a countless number of components, and that the scientific research is only beneficial if it can be translated to patients suffering from disease. Another great learning experience was visiting the World Health Organization (WHO), where we participated in discussions regarding worldwide health standards and how drug companies play a role in access to healthcare.
How did USF prepare you to take on biotechnology in the real world?
At USF I gained experience with valuable lab skills that I use almost everyday in my current position. These skills include designing and executing cell-based assays, tissue culture etiquette, and sterile techniques. The courses I took throughout the program, specifically Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology, have both been critical to my understanding of antibody development and characterization. It was an environment where I collaborated with people from a broad range of backgrounds, preparing me for a highly collaborative workplace where people from many different areas of expertise find cures for neurodegenerative diseases.
What were some of the companies you visited on the trip?
We visited biotech giants like Roche and Novartis. Novartis is a small city within a city and having the opportunity to tour the campus was incredible. The companies there are practicing biotech that aims to benefit millions of people globally. However, the hurdle for the companies at the moment is first, trying to better understand through research what exact treatments are needed around the world. And second, finding a way to mitigate the cost so that the benefits can serve underdeveloped countries as well.