Two of UConn MCB's PSM alumni have been profiled in the National Professional Science Master's Association's annual newsletter. Marsenia Harrison Mathis, PSM, Microbial Systems Analysis 2009 and Maria Del Carmen Rosas, PSM, Applied Genomics, 2020 were profiled in the association's newsletter, The PSM Alumni and Graduation Chronicle, 2021.
Marsenia Harrison Mathis, MPH, M.S. Microbial Systems Analysis, Spring 2009, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut
A Passion for Science and Public Health
Marsenia Mathis considers herself a public health advocate, scientist, and STEMinist. After a long career working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Marsenia now works at Goldbelt C6. In addition to her current position, Marsenia is also an entrepreneur as the founder and creator of The Nerdy CEO.
After her undergraduate studies at Stillman College, Marsenia wanted to pursue further education for a career in the sciences. Dr. Lee Aggison, her professor at Stillman and later the director of the Microbial Systems Analysis (MSA) program, recommended Marsenia apply to the program. Marsenia was one of the first students to enroll in the program and as she says, “It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
At UConn, Marsenia found the MSA program “offered exactly what I was looking for.” One course in particular, Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenicity, sparked Marsenia’s interest in infectious disease. “I knew right away I wanted to work at the CDC.” Marsenia found the MSA program prepared her well for the workforce. “I gained more expertise, skillsets, and knowledge in Microbiology that applied to my career.”
After graduation, Marsenia spent nine years “chasing infectious diseases, particularly respiratory illnesses by way of the CDC.” In her current role at Goldbelt C6, Marsenia manages and oversees federal government contracts with the CDC, which includes staff recruiting, customer relationship development, project growth, and staff leadership.
Marsenia recently created the online platform, The Nerdy CEO, (thenerdyceo.com), a limited liability company, “to educate and encourage individuals in STEM professions ensuring they have the support, resources, self-confidence, and conviction to achieve their goals.”
As to her assessment of the MSA program, “I think this program is a wonderful opportunity. It definitely positions you with the skillsets and knowledge to perform to the best of your ability.”
Maria del Carmen Rosas, M.S. Applied Genomics, Spring 2020, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut
From Engineering to Translational Research
It was an interest in Sanger sequencing and its applications to biotechnology that led Maria Rosas to the Applied Genomics PSM program at UConn. The program allowed Maria to develop the skills needed to pursue her interest in the real-world application of laboratory research. Maria currently works as the sole laboratory technician in the Biobehavioral Research Laboratory at the School of Nursing, UConn.
There were few opportunities to learn Sanger sequencing and other related technologies in Peru, where Maria received her undergraduate training in chemical and biotechnology engineering. While researching biotechnology programs in the U.S., Maria had the opportunity to discuss the PSM program with Dr. Charlie Giardina, the Director of the Applied Genomics program at UConn. “The program had what I was looking for, hands-on training with real applications! And those skills could be applied to different settings, research and industry,” Maria recalls.
Maria currently manages the new Biobehavioral Research Laboratory. Her duties include equipment acquisition, overseeing grant budgets, operating the service center, training graduate assistants, and obtaining IBC approval for new projects. In addition, she performs different types of sample analysis. Currently, Maria is developing and validating SOPs for assays of common biomarkers in saliva and fecal samples from babies using a new multiplex platform (ELLA) acquired by the facility.
As to how well the PSM program prepared her, Maria says, “The program provided me with the skills needed for my job, the technical and the soft ones, such as the training in laboratory management and communication, two things I was not trained in before. I can prepare budgets, manage a good number of samples, assist with research protocols, and communicate effectively with people.” She recommends the program for those who “love to work in a laboratory setting and want to be exposed to cutting-edge technologies and applications.”
The Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program is a two-year graduate program designed to fill a management need for technology-based companies, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations. Students pursue advanced training in science, while simultaneously developing valued business skills. Professional Science Master’s programs combine rigorous study in science or mathematics with coursework in management, policy, or law and emphasize writing and communication skills, and many include project management.
Learn more about the PSM Initiative: www.professionalsciencemasters.org.