Concurrent degree program integrates business foundations with biomedical science

In a unique collaboration, a concurrent degree program featuring Penn State Harrisburg’s master of business administration and the Penn State College of Medicine’s Ph.D. in biomedical sciences allows students to get on a fast track to  jobs that combine scientific research with positions of management responsibility. The concurrent program gives students an edge in a highly competitive field by providing them with a foundation in management in addition to specialization in biomedical science.

Since the program’s inception in late 1990s, more than 50 students have graduated and pursued business careers in biomedical research.   

“The M.B.A./Ph.D. students typically pursue business-related positions that allow them to use management and scientific skills, such as biomedical consultants, private equity analysts and so forth,” said Dr. Oranee Tawatnuntachai, director of Penn State Harrisburg’s MBA program. “Our curriculum lays a business foundation for them and also provides in-depth content.”

“The MBA credentials that our doctoral students earn during their combined studies provide a unique blend of invaluable skills that translate into enormous flexibility in their ultimate career choice,” added Dr. Charles Lang, Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, and Surgery at the Penn State College of Medicine.

One of the program’s advantages is that it allows students to work on both degrees simultaneously, reducing the timeframe to complete the two degrees and reducing tuition costs. It typically takes two years for full-time students to complete the M.B.A. program. In doing so, they can save some credits, with up to nine credits that can be counted toward both degrees. This leads to tuition savings.

“Not only do the Ph.D. students benefit from the business program, but our MBA-only students get to hear diverse viewpoints from the doctoral students who are in their classes,” Tawatnuntachai said.

Graduate Samuel Linton would concur.

The Oregon native, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Delaware, earned his MBA from Penn State Harrisburg in August 2016. He is working on his Ph.D. from the College of Medicine in translational therapeutics, looking toward graduation in spring 2017. Before graduate school, he was a technician at the biotechnology company MitoSciences.

“Through the MBA/Ph.D. program, I want to work at the interface of science and business,” says Linton. “I was happy to discover that Penn State offered this.”

Linton said that he has experienced what it takes to get a project off the ground in the lab, and through his M.B.A. courses, he has learned how to view science from the perspective of a person trained in business.

Among the courses that he said have had the greatest impact for him are 
corporate finance and marketing research. With plans to pursue a career in technology transfer and licensing technologies, Linton has found the program to be a perfect fit for helping him reach his goals. He also recently completed an internship in Penn State Harrisburg’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, providing him with practical experience.

“I would highly recommend the concurrent degree program to Ph.D. students who are interested in alternative careers in science,” said Linton.

Taryn Dick Enders also found the program beneficial. She studied molecular toxicology and is a post-doctoral fellow in the pharmacology lab at the Penn State College of Medicine.

Through the Penn State Harrisburg M.B.A., Enders gained the business tools to facilitate her goals in the areas of toxicology and cancer research.

“The program has given me a better understanding of how business impacts my research,” said Enders.

“This concurrent degree opportunity facilitates the completion of both a doctorate in biomedical sciences and a professional master's degree in business administration,” says Tawatnuntachai. “Not only does it impact our students, but it can impact advances in biomedical research.”