Scientist Rediscovers career path in Biotechnology at UCSC Extension


- Priyanka Khanduri

Term : October, 2014
Department : Biosciences
Program : Biotechnology

Before coming to the United States, Priyanka Khanduri was enrolled in a Ph.D. program in India, doing a research project on effect of climate change on biodiversity of high altitude Himalayan flora. This avid student of chemistry and life sciences had to take a break from her career and passion when her husband’s job relocated them to California. After getting adjusted to life in Silicon Valley, Khanduri sought out opportunities to resume her formal studies. When one of her acquaintances introduced her to UCSC Extension’s Biotechnology certificate program, she jumped on the opportunity. It seemed like an excellent way to update her knowledge while potentially qualifying her for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This opportunity could allow her to learn and gain some professional experience. She completed the certificate in fall 2013 and is currently gaining experience as a research coordinator at a lab in Silicon Valley.

What were your courses like?

The courses are high-quality. Progress is assessed by well-organized midterms, finals and reports. Most classes also require you to prepare presentations and papers on current and interesting topics in biotech. The professors are well-respected in the industry and have thorough experience in the domain. They all have on average 10-20 years of experience in well-reputed positions. They don’t just teach course material; they share their personal experiences. Most students are working professionals, which makes the class environment so productive—you get to learn from them as well.

What was your experience with the Clinical Trials Intensive?

In one week, the Clinical Trials Intensive will give you the outline and gist of clinical trials. If you are new to the field, it can be helpful professionally. I learned how clinical trials are being performed, what the criteria are and what the regulations are. I also got acquainted with some professionals from the field. This gave me some idea of their work, challenges and requirements. It also helped me identify the types of jobs I can potentially get. This course relates back to biotechnology because biotech companies perform clinical trials. When it came time to take “Drug Development,” “Regulation of Drugs and Biologics,” and other courses, it helped that I had taken the Clinical Trials Intensive.

What advice do you have for professionals considering a career in biotechnology?

Aspiring biotechnology professionals should have lab experience—good basics in biology will definitely help. The UCSC Extension certificate course is very well-designed and will help you upgrade your knowledge according to current industry [trends] and will also help your resume.

What’s your dream job?

I’d love to work in an area where I feel like I’m contributing back to the society by using my knowledge and skills, which for me can’t be anywhere but biotechnology. Biotechnology holds the key to the well-being and longevity of human life. Its impact goes beyond borders and races. This is the field of my choice. To be specific, I’m very interested in research on cancer, gene therapy and HIV.

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