New class teaches science students business skills

By Emily Ng

Undergraduate students at the University of Calgary are learning about the biotechnology industry careers available after they graduate in a new class called business and biotechnology.

The medical science course is offered under the bachelor of health sciences program at the U of C and is taught by professor Derrick Rancourt.

Rancourt said he modeled the course in a way that gives students a better understanding of the careers available to biomedical science graduates.

“I saw the opportunity to actually begin to teach biotechnology at the level of the undergrad because I felt that [a masters] program was not necessary for students to take if they were actually a little bit more proactive in understanding the biotech industry and the various careers that exist,” Rancourt said.

The course is currently running in its second year and has attracted an increasing amount of interest from biomedical students.

The course is divided into two streams that teach students the basics of biotechnology from a business perspective and provide professional development. Students enrolled in the course are given the opportunity to meet and profile professionals who are already in the field as well as present biotechnology-related business case studies.

Case studies in the class are also presented in a non-traditional fashion. Working in groups of four or five, students find their own case studies and present them in an engaging and understandable manner to science students with no business background. Students have acted out boardroom meetings and created video projects.

Rancourt said he found this approach allows students to become more engaged and interested in the subject matter.

“I look forward to everything in this class. I look forward to the case studies, to the presentations on the different career paths,” Rancourt said. “I think all of these things are wonderful forms for a discourse within the class.”

Third-year health sciences student Bao Nguyen said the course offers students a great opportunity to look beyond medical school or research as the only opportunities for science students.

“A lot of people go into bio-med just to get into medicine or go into research,” Nguyen said. “But there’s so much more out there and you really wouldn’t get that exposure unless you found your own [networking] sources which is totally doable but it’s a lot more accessible by taking this course.”

Rancourt said that undergraduate students often don’t realize the career value of science degrees.

“People think that you can’t get very far with a bachelor’s degree. The message I want to make is that if you position yourself with the right kind of courses and the right kind of experience, that you can be competitive,” Rancourt said. “This idea of introducing business to the scientist is one way of showing them the vista of career paths within biological and biomedical sciences.”

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