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Master of Science in Biomedical Science

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Conversation with a Current Student – January 24, 2005



1. How do you like the program, is it worth while?

Honestly speaking, I love the program. There are very few programs that let you complete a Master’s degree in one year. This happens to be one of them. The program is designed so that you can complete it within 1-4 years, depending on your situation. I had done my undergraduate education at NYU, the whole pre-med track, with a major in Biology and a minor in Physics. I have to say that my course load at NYU was a bit heavier than the graduate program here. This served as a disadvantage in the learning process for my undergraduate education. The classes at NYU only seemed more difficult, because it was very detail oriented and I found myself memorizing essentials for exams without really understanding them and then forgetting about it. In the Master’s program, the goal of the program is not to overwhelm you with lots of facts and figures and names of every enzyme, but rather to give you a broad understanding of important concepts. I actually feel like I am learning now as I understand things from a broader perspective. The best part of the program is that it is small. There were only 17 of us, which makes the learning environment much more comfortable and we get more attention from the professors. I don’t know if your goal is to go to medical school or not, but if you are thinking about it and you’re not quite ready to jump into intensive studying for medical school, but you don’t want to take a year off either, then this program is a great way to keep you on track academically without compromising other things you may want to pursue during the year.

2. Are your future goals to become a Physician and if so what has the program done to help with that goal?

Yes, I do want to become a physician. I had applied to UMDNJ-SOM last year. I was accepted on the wait-list and was pretty high up on it, but unfortunately not enough seats opened up to allow me to matriculate. The Master’s program was brand new and it would allow me to take medical school courses and I knew I wanted to go to SOM, so I thought it would be a great way to prove my academic performance and apply again for Fall 2005. It is still pretty early in the application process, I haven’t heard anything back yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. You don’t need to get a Master’s degree to go to medical school, but a lot of people who were non-science majors during their undergraduate education or even people who want to sharpen and further their understanding opt to take a few science graduate courses to help them prepare for the MCATs and/or medical school.

3. How much is tuition and how readily available is financial aide?

The exact figure for in-state tuition is $13,669 (out-of-state tuition is $17,086) plus books and supplies. Here’s a website that breaks down the figures for students who opt to get an apartment here and for students who commute from their parent’s home. (Budgets info) I know people in the medical class who have scholarships and need-based aid. I don’t know anyone in the graduate program in the same situation. Most of us have taken full loans. I’ve taken almost a $30,000 loan for the whole year. So after subtracting tuition, I get about $7,500 per semester to take care of my living expenses. This included $6,000 in Perkin’s loan. The people at the financial aid office are very helpful and I’m sure that they can work with you and figure out the best situation for you.

4. Are you doing the program in 1 or 2 years?

I am completing it in one year. It’s very doable. You will not feel exhausted with course work. You have plenty of time to have a job and socialize.

5. Do you think it is possible to work while in the program?

I worked in the lab for a professor at the graduate school for my first semester (20-25 hours) a week. I was taking a medical school class, so I couldn’t really work more. But a lot of students who weren’t keen on completing the program in one year were still working on a 40 hour week schedule. All the graduate courses are in the evening, so if you are not taking medical school courses and still wanted to finish the program in a year, you could probably still manage to work full time. The program is designed that way. If you want to work on campus, work-study is also now available. They pay about 12 dollars an hour, but you can only work for not more than 20 hours a week and depending on your award letter, it limits the amount of total hours for the whole year.

6. How difficult are the core/medical school classes and how many medical school classes have you opted to take if any?

The program allows you to take only two medical school classes. I didn’t hear about the program until after the medical school courses had already started. The medical school classes start at the beginning of August and the graduate program starts at the beginning of September. I would have probably taken Physiology with the medical students, but I had missed many classes and didn’t want to fall behind, as the course demands a lot of hours and is very intensive. But, I did take Human Genetics with the medical school, as I had only missed two classes and it was not as intensive as Physiology. It was very manageable with my schedule. The graduate courses are not as concentrated as the medical school courses. The material is similar, they just may not go into too many details in the Master’s program, but also it’s easier to explain it to 17 students than a class of 95 like the medical school. The only core course that I found challenging last semester was the Fundamentals of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (I) course, as the professor teaches the medical students as well and there was a lot to memorize. But, I think everybody in the class did fairly well. The other core class is Fundamentals of Cell Biology (II), which has a great teacher who explains things really well. Then there is Introduction to Biostatistics; you are forced to stay on top of everything with weekly quizzes, which helped a great deal and I didn’t really have to study for the final. Finally, there’s the Seminar in Biomedical Sciences course; this was my most relaxing class-he never wanted us to take notes; he just wanted us to listen as the exams didn’t require much outside knowledge, it just tested our ability to interpret data and we also had to present on two topics of our choice. This semester is a little bit more challenging for me as I am taking the Gross Anatomy class with the medical students, which requires 12 hours of in class-time. I chose not to work this semester as I really want to do well in my classes. There are three of us from the Master’s program taking Gross Anatomy with the medical school and we have our own cadaver to work with. We have lectures Thursday and Friday mornings and we dissect in the afternoons. It is definitely a very demanding class and you really have to stay on top of everything. If you do not want to take Gross Anatomy at the medical school, you can also take it at the graduate school, but they don’t really dissect, they look at what we had already dissected in the afternoons. You can also opt to take Medical Microbiology or Neuroscience in the medical school if you want. There are only two core classes this semester: Ethics in Science, Research and Scholarship and a Fundamentals of Systems Biology (III) course. The elective classes at the graduate school include Principles in Pharmacology, Lab Animal Science, and Advances in Cell Biology. You can also choose to do a 2-credit Lab rotation with a professor during either semester and/or work on a thesis. You must complete 30 credits to graduate. If you choose to do a thesis then you only need to take 25 credits of coursework and 5 credits of thesis research. I chose not to do one as my focus is on medical school and not really on research.

7. When will you apply to medical school, your first or second year? And if your only in it for 1 year is it possible to get into medical school the following fall?

I applied to medical school last December and I will graduate from the Master’s program in May. I plan to work in the summer and start medical school in August (hopefully!). So to answer your question, yes it is possible. Even if you opted to do a thesis in the summer in the Master’s program, it would not interfere with starting medical school.

8. What classes do you recommend and when to take them?

I spoke about this above. But I’ll give you a list of classes offered and tell you what I took and why. Oh, you mentioned something about Rutgers, I don’t know if you are from there but you can also take classes at Rutgers Camden if you want to. Alright, if you plan to finish in a year, you need to take all of the core classes (16 credits in total). I don’t know what your financial situation is, but if you can take all these classes and work part-time, I would highly recommend finishing it in a year. It’s not like you’ll find yourself overloading work. I still don’t feel like I have a lighter course load than I did at NYU. So the required courses for first semester are: Seminar in Biomedical Sciences, Fundamentals of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (I), Fundamentals of Cell Biology (II), and Introduction to Biostatistics. I took all of these and in addition, I also took a Lab rotation course where I have to find a professor to work with for the semester. This semester there are only two core courses: Fundamentals of Systems Biology (III) and Ethics in Science, Research, and Scholarship. In addition, I am taking Principles of Pharmacology, which is also taught by a medical school professor and is pretty intensive, but I really thought its time that I start getting used to the names of drugs and then of course I’m taking Gross Anatomy with the medical students. Both of which will help me greatly for medical school. You should look up the courses online- there’s a whole list of them and you can also take classes at Rutgers if you want. So go through it when you get a chance.

9. What is the typical course schedule like (ex: Monday class 8-9 pm, Tues class 1-4 pm etc)

My schedule for this year was/is:

Fall semester:
Monday- Introduction to Biostatistics: (6 pm-9 pm)
Tuesday- Human Genetics: (11 am-12 pm) and (3 pm-5 pm) (Medical School)
Seminar in Biomedical Sciences: (5 pm-7 pm)
Wednesday- Fundamentals of Cell Biology (II): (5 pm-8 pm) (usually got out much earlier)
Thursday- Fundamentals of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (II): (6 pm-9 pm)
Friday- no classes

Spring Semester:
Monday- no class
Tuesday- Fundamentals of Systems Biology (III): (5:30 pm-8:30 pm)
Wednesday- Ethics in Science, Research and Scholarship: (3 pm-5 pm) (starts on Jan 26th)
Principles of Pharmacology: (6 pm-9 pm)
Thursday- Gross and Developmental Anatomy (9/10am-12pm) (Medical School)
Anatomy Lab (1pm-4pm) (Med. School)
Friday- Gross and Developmental Anatomy (9/10am-12pm) (Medical School)
Anatomy Lab (1pm-4pm) (Med. School)

10. Do you live on/near campus or do you commute? How expensive is housing or are there apartments nearby?

Currently, there is no campus housing. I live exactly 3.0 miles from school. It’s actually one of the cheaper apartment complexes. It’s called Pine Hill Gardens and it’s on Blackwood-Clementon Road. It has a swimming pool and tennis court outside. I have a balcony and best of all, I have a washer/dryer in my apartment and heat and hot water are included in the rent, which is $569 dollars. So you just pay for electricity, which isn’t much as I’m hardly home and Comcast has a deal for cable and internet for $30-40 bucks a month. You can always seek a roommate on the school bulletin board and split the rent. A lot of students commute from their parent’s home. There is one fellow student who commutes an hour. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are trying to finish it in a year and take medical school classes. South Jersey is relatively inexpensive to me after living in New York. So it really depends on your financial situation. As I said, Loans are available and so is Work Study. If you do want to look for an apartment here, I have a great apartment guide book that would help you.

11. What was your reasoning for getting involved in the program?

I didn’t want to take a year completely off and lose the habit of studying. I still wanted to be in school and going for an advanced degree sounded great. A one year Master’s program is rare; this seemed like a great opportunity. I wanted to better prepare myself for medical school by taking more science classes and I wanted to take classes at the medical school to prove my performance.

12. Is the program organized or do you get frustrated with it sometimes (ex: classes getting cancelled)?

Classes were never cancelled. The first semester, there was some confusion with the room for a class, but it was a brand new program, so these things are expected. They worked out many quirks relatively quickly. The best part of the program is that it’s new and we get to set the precedent and we have so many people who are here precisely to help us do that. Dr. Carl Hock, the Associate Dean, and Dr. Diane Worrad, the Program Coordinator, have been so great in helping us get everything that we need. For instance, I wanted a locker to hang my coat in while I went to dissect in Anatomy lab, (only the medical students had lockers) but I brought it up to Diane and she spoke to someone at SOM, and viola, the next day we had lockers! It benefits to be in a small program, you get a lot of attention and there are so many people willing to help you get the best out of the program.

13. Any other advise?

I don’t know if you are still in school or if you are working. But if you plan to work this summer, in addition to that, take a trip somewhere and relax your mind. This way you can gear up and be prepared to study hard and get the most out of the program, when you start in August/September. It’s not difficult to do well in this program, most of the exams are right from the notes, but if you want to get more out of it then read the textbooks and learn more about each topic. You can start this before classes start if you want. Also, I’d recommend ordering used textbooks from Amazon if you can; the new textbooks are really expensive. If you would like to contact our Program Coordinator, here’s her email address: I hope I was able to answer all your questions. Good Luck!


Note: P.S. graduated in the Spring of 2005 as the first graduate in the Master of Biomedical Sciences Program. She completed the program in 2 semesters with a Master in Biomedical Sciences Degree. She has been accepted into the D.O. degree program at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine for the Fall of 2005.

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