Higher Ed: Medical Cannabis Courses Are Now Available at US Universities

Posted in Articles, BioEducation, Uncategorized

Back in the day when I was going to graduate school in Madison, WI,  there was no such thing as medical Cannabis (although there was plenty of weed to go around).  But, as the line in that old Dylan song goes “the times they are a changin”

Late last month, the University of California-Davis announced that it would be joining Humboldt State University in offering undergraduate students a course entitled Physiology of Cannabis.  FYI, Humboldt State has been offering courses in medical Cannabis since 2012 (not surprising since the school is located in prime Cannabis cultivation territory).

According to UC-Davis officials the semester-long, three credit course will be aimed at biology students and will cover the endocannabinoid system, the effects of cannabinoids on the human body and the therapeutic value of Cannabis.

Likewise, Sonoma State University announced that it will be offering a one day symposium on March 11, 2017  to members of the healthcare industry in the Bay area. The symposium is entitled Medical Cannabis: A Clinical and it is intended as a workforce development course.  Nurses, physicians and pharmacists can get continuing education credit for the course. Topics that will be covered include the history of cannabis, an introduction to cannabinoids and terpenes, dosing and administration of cannabinoids, legal implication and other medical-related issues. The university is also planning a three day course on Cannabis regulatory issues later in the month.

While these courses are available, there is currently no undergraduate degree program in Cannabis science/medicine offered by any US university or college. That said, don’t be surprised if this major becomes a reality in States where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal.

Until next time…

Good Luck, Good Job Hunting and Happy Trails

Promoting Science Literacy Among Undergraduate Humanities Students One Student At A Time

Posted in BioEducation

In 2005, The National Academy of Sciences issued a worrisome report entitled “Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future” that warned that America is slipping in competitiveness in all areas of science.

While this ought to have been a wake-up call for all Americans, in 2010, the Academy issued an update entitled “Rising above the Gathering Storm: Approaching Category 5." Not surprisingly, the findings in the update indicate that the US is still lagging in its capacity to innovate and compete and that the trend continues to move in a downward direction. For example, in 2006 (the most recent year for which data are available) 16 percent of American college students received undergraduate degrees in natural sciences or engineering as compared with 47 percent in China, 38 percent in Korea and 27 percent in France. Recommendations in the original report called for creation of 25, 000 undergraduate scholarships per year in math, science and engineering. Although the updated report indicated that Congress had taken some steps to implement the recommendation, progress has been severely lacking in this area.

Almost all US colleges and universities require that undergraduate students have some instruction in science. Unfortunately, most of these courses are lecture driven and lack a laboratory component (mainly because laboratory instruction is costly and time intensive). This is problematic because science is a laboratory driven discipline that requires data collection and analysis; neither of which is taught in most lecture settings. Recognizing the growing lack of science literacy among American undergraduate students, Leon Botstein—music director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra and President of Bard College an artsy liberal arts college in NY—decided to do something about it. To that end, he created a program at Bard called Citizen Science; a mandatory science course conducted during winter break that all Bard freshmen are required to take for graduation.

Citizen Science is a two and a half week long program in which students spend six hours per day immersed in laboratory science. The 2011 program taken by 480 students focused on the molecular biology of infectious diseases. Using laboratory equipment, computer modeling and classroom discussions, student explored various aspects of infectious disease research including bacterial and viral detection, creation of vaccines and techniques that can be used to manage global disease outbreaks. The students were taught by two dozen scientists who were recruited from all over the country. There are no grades or credits received by program participants. This was done to promote learning for learning sake according to Brooke Jude an assistant professor of biology and the director of Citizen Science.

Botstein, who incidentally is the brother of David Botstein a world renowned geneticist at Princeton University, has been an outspoken critic about deficiencies in American education. He previously has taken many of his colleagues to task for “shirking their responsibility to create a well-rounded citizenry.” Botstein, with help from his brother, decided to “put his money where is mouth is” by creating Citizen Science. 

According to Botstein, “The most terrifying problem in American university education is the profound lack of scientific literacy for the people we give diplomas to who are not scientists or engineers.” He added, “The hidden Achilles’ heel is that while we’ve found ways to educate scientists in the humanities, the reverse has never really happened. Everybody knows this, but nobody wants to do anything about it.”

Not surprisingly, the Citizen Science Program has received mixed reviews from the 480 Bard freshmen who participated in the inaugural program. After all, a majority of the students who chose to attend Bard have a decided bent toward music and the arts, not science. Nevertheless, many students suggested that their two and half week scientific sojourn has taught them to think more critically about science. Next year’s theme for the Citizen Science program may be energy or climate change.

While Bard’s Citizen Science program is a fantastic idea, not all colleges or universities have the financial largess or scientific connections necessary to create similar programs at their institutions. Perhaps Congress ought to establish funding mechanisms (in addition to the 25,000 math and science scholarships each year) for post secondary institutions interested in replicating the Bard program.

Government officials can no longer deny what the data are showing them; science literacy in the US is plummeting and we are REALLY at risk of losing our competitive and innovative edges in math, engineering and science. Put simply, it is no longer a question of “if” but “when.”

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


Internships: To Pay or Not to Pay Is the Question

Posted in BioJobBuzz

There is a growing controversy over the rules governing whether internships offered by employers should be paid or unpaid. Many wage and hour regulators maintain that interns must be paid when their work is of “immediate advantage” to the employer. In this case, the interns should be considered employees and must be paid at least minimum wage. However, as the number of internships continues to rise, an increasing number of interns have complained of being placed in unpaid positions doing largely unskilled or menial work. Most labor experts agree that this provides an immediate financial advantage to an employer because the intern is doing unpaid work that is typically performed by a paid employee. 

Because of the growing popularity of internships, the federal government has established six criteria to determine whether or not internships can be unpaid. These include that the internship must resemble instruction or training given in a vocational skill or academic institution and that the intern does not displace or replace a paid employee and that the employer does not gain an immediate advantage from the intern’s work and activities. In other words, if an intern’s experience is mainly educational or beneficial to the intern the internship does not have to be a paid one. To confound the issue, the California labor department recently issued new guidelines on whether or not internships should be paid, with the new rules giving employers more latitude not to pay them

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the new rules stipulate that interns need not always be paid when they do some of the same work as company employees. The new guidelines suggest that interns could do occasional work done by regular employees as long as it “does not unreasonably replace or impede the education objective for the intern and effectively displace regular workers.” I suspect that other states will follow suit and redefine their criteria for unpaid internships.

Don’t be surprised if you see a spike in the number of unpaid internships offered for the summer of 2010 and beyond.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!


Online Biotechnology Training

Posted in BioEducation

In case you haven’t heard by now, biotechnology is no longer one of the best kept secrets of the pharmaceutical industry. Because small molecule blockbuster drugs are few and far between, every major pharmaceutical company in the world has announced plans to increase the percentage of protein-based drugs in their development pipeline. 

As strange as this may sound, most people working at pharmaceutical companies have little or no understanding of the science behind the biotechnology industry, its products and the skill sets required to compete in the industry. I learned this while working as a contract writer at a pharmaceutical company that was trying to transition from an emphasis on small molecules to biotechnology drugs. Shortly after management publicly announced its intention, signs began appearing in the building where I worked with messages like “Are you biotech to the core” or “Got biotech.” Not surprisingly, I found myself explaining the different between small molecules and biotechnology products to large numbers of colleagues during group lunches. Their lack of understanding about biotechnology was both surprising and troubling. I mean where have these people been for the past 35 years? 

While I thought that this phenomenon was unique to the company where I was working, it turns out —based on many conversations with employees at other companies—that it is pervasive in the pharmaceutical industry! Put simply, there are large numbers of pharmaceutical employees (and aspiring students for that matter) who know little about biotechnology and must quickly learn about an industry that they are being forced to work in so that they can keep their jobs! This presents time and logistical issues for many full time pharmaceutical employees—they simply don’t have the time or where-with-all to learn about biotechnology via traditional bricks and mortar training opportunities, e.g. undergraduate, graduate or certificate programs.

Recognizing a growing need, several academic institutions now offer online biotechnology courses and degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. While these programs may not enable participants to work as bench scientists at life sciences companies (this requires hands-on wet laboratory training), they certainly provide students with the fundamental scientific and business underpinnings of the biotechnology industry.

Below you will find descriptions of a couple of online degree biotechnology programs and links to online undergraduate and graduate level biotechnology courses.

Online Biotechnology Degree Programs

The Johns Hopkins University – a prestigious brick-and-mortar research university – offers three online degree programs in advanced biotechnology: the M.S. in Bioinformatics, the M.S. in Bioscience Regulatory Affairs, and the M.S. in Biotechnology. (The M.S. in Biotech may involve a limited amount of on-campus instruction in Baltimore.) Students have up to five years to complete their degrees, but those who enroll for full-time study typically finish in two years.

The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is among America’s largest providers of distance education. UMUC’s Biotechnology Studies Program has been designated a “Professional Science Master’s Degree Program” by the Council of Graduate Schools. The program’s three specialization areas include: bioinformatics, biotechnology management, and biosecurity/biodefense. A dual online degree option is also available: students can earn an MBA in addition to the Master’s in Biotechnology by completing just a few additional courses.

Online Biotechnology Courses

Purdue University’s Department of Continuing Education frequently features online courses in horticulture and related fields that can help students prepare for careers in biotechnology. New choices are offered every semester.

MiraCosta College, a community college in Southern California, offers a number of online courses in biotechnology. The school’s website includes a five-year projection of course offerings.

While the current list of online biotechnology offerings is short, expect the number of online courses and degree programs to continue to grow in the future. If you are aware of or participate in other online biotechnology courses and degree programs, please feel free contact me about them.

Hat tip and thanks to Chesca and her colleagues at OnlineDegreeReviews.org for research and writing of this post!

Until next time,

Good luck and Good learning!



Bioscientists and the MBA Degree

Posted in BioBusiness

I am frequently asked by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are having trouble finding a research and development job, whether or not it makes sense to go to business school to get an Masters of Business Administration) MBA degree to enhance their business acumen. While I don’t think it would hurt (especially if you are interested in business), I also don’t think most scientists benefit from enrolling traditional MBA degree programs. With this in mind, some forward-looking academic institutions have launched joint PhD-MBA programs which allow students enrolled in these programs to graduate with PhD and MBA degrees at the end of their graduate training.

The joint programs typically take less time than it would to earn each of the degrees individually and mainly cater to scientists who have decided to eschew academic science careers in favor of life sciences management jobs. While these programs are relatively new and continue to evolve, growing numbers of would-be scientists who are also interested in business are taking advantage of them.

One of these students, Kristy Houck graduated with a PhD in pharmacology and a MBA from the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine joint program almost two years ago. “I loved science, but knew that I didn’t want to perform bench work for the rest of my life. This opened a world of career opportunities for me” said Houck. “Previous graduates of the program have quickly risen to management level positions because they are recognized as business-savvy scientists” she added.

Other academic institutions are closely watching these programs to determine whether or not graduates of the joint PhD-MBA programs have better employment outcomes as compared with person who go through traditional PhD and MBA graduate programs. I listed the institutions that currently offer the joint program in the table below. Check it out!

Academic institutions that offer joint PhD/MBA program in the life sciences


Name of Institution                                                   Website



Pennsylvania State University (Dept. of Pharmacology)


San Diego State University


University of Connecticut


University of Florida


Vanderbilt University


Wake Forest University


Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


Social Networks and Corporate Recruiting: Leveraging Employee Referrals to Find New Talent

Posted in Social Media

The advent of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Linked In have been a boon to recruiters and human resources (HR) professionals. Social networks represent a vast and easily-accessible source of job candidates whose professional credentials and personal information are readily available to determine whether or not they may be potential new hires. While the effectiveness of recruiters and HR professionals to source new talent is debatable, I contend that there is nobody more qualified than employees at a company to identify prospective new employees who may bring value to an organization. A number of forward-thinking companies have realized that the best way to find “right fit job candidates” is to mine the social networking contacts of their existing employees. To that end, Appirio and Jobvite, two San Francisco, CA-based start ups, developed software platforms that allow their clients to link employee social networks and candidate sourcing solutions to employee referral programs. 

A hiring company that uses Appirio’s application, ask its employees who belong to Facebook to add the application to their personal pages. When new jobs are available, Appirio’s matching engine searches the Facebook pages of an employee’s friends and uses job titles, geography and key words to determine which friends might be a good fit for the available positions. Once identified, a friend receives a referral from the employee inviting him/her to apply for the job (if interested). If the “friend” is ultimately hired, Appirio’s application allows the company to identify which employee found the match and offer a referral bonus. To address privacy concerns, the list of possible matches is available to only to friends/employees—not the hiring company or Appirio.

Jobvite offers a similar service but in addition to Facebook, it also searches and mines friend/contact information from Linked In and Twitter. And, anyone who receives a Jobvite referral can also search his/her own network to identify suitable job candidates and pass it along again. Jobvite recipients who are hired can be tracked to the original sender, so that the employee can receive a referral bonus—even if the Jobvite referral has been passed from one inbox to another up to six times.

Despite the explosion of job boards, social networking sites and social media tools like Twitter, employee referrals are still the most effective way for jobseekers to find new jobs. The Appirio and Jobvite solutions represent a novel way to leverage employee relationships to match jobseekers with prospective new employers. However, in this job market, I wouldn’t sit around and wait to receive an Appirio or Jobvite invitation from one of your social networking friends. Instead, I recommend that you put your social networking sites to good use and tell everyone you know that you are actively seeking employment.  Because at the end of the day finding a new job is all about networking!

Until next time…

Good luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!


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