Partnership with biotech giant Genentech benefits UMBC graduate students

Published: Jun 25, 2024

scientist in tie-dye lab coat working at a lab bench
Maki Negesse, a biological sciences Ph.D. student at UMBC, has benefited from being a Genentech Fellow. (Photo by Melissa Penley Cormier, M.F.A. '17)

UMBC doctoral students are reaping the benefits of an innovative partnership between UMBC and biotech leader Genentech. In year three of a five-year program, six students have received financial support and started conducting research with the company through Genentech Fellowships. In addition, many more students have benefited from regular contact with Genentech senior scientists through their on-campus lecture series. 

By supplying training opportunities in industry before graduation—the kind of preparation that has not always been supplied in traditional life science programs—the relationship between UMBC and Genentech is opening doors to a wider range of careers for graduate students in the life sciences. 

Hands-on training at Genentech

woman stands on sandy ground with a few grasses and blue-green water body in the background, located on the Genentech campus
Maki Negesse on the Genentech campus in South San Francisco, California. (Photo courtesy of Negesse)

Each year during the five-year agreement, Genentech fully funds two life science Ph.D. candidates in the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program who are progressing well through their doctoral work and have expressed interest in pursuing a career in industry. Selected students continue their thesis work with their Ph.D. advisors during the academic year; then they spend the summer as research interns at Genentech headquarters in South San Francisco, California.  Alecia Dent ’12, biochemistry and molecular biology, who earned a Ph.D. at University of Maryland, Baltimore as a Meyerhoff Graduate Fellow and today works at Genentech, has generously helped the fellows acclimate to life on the West Coast by offering lodging at her home.

The internship at Genentech “was a great opportunity to grow my network and get hands-on training in a different area of expertise, and a great way to gain some industry experience,” shares Maki Negesse, a biological sciences Ph.D. candidate in Erin Green’s research group at UMBC. 

When fellows return to UMBC, they present their research and experience at Genentech to all of the current Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows—a group that includes more than 100 UMBC and University of Maryland, Baltimore graduate students. In addition, Genentech scientists give multiple seminars at both campuses each year. 

“My experience at Genentech has strengthened my desire to pursue a career in biotech companies,” Negesse adds. “I highly recommend that students pursue at least one internship during graduate school.”

Proactive steps for success

portrait of man standing outdoors in front of green grass, green trees, and red brick building
Michael Summers played a key role in the development of the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program. (Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

The partnership signals that UMBC is proactively taking steps to ensure its graduate training programs set students up for success in various high-demand roles. Genentech, too, is committed to supporting the next generation of highly qualified biotech workers.    

“Graduate programs in the life sciences are historically geared toward preparing Ph.D. students for academic careers. This partnership fills a gap in graduate education by providing on-site training at a world-class company for students who are interested in careers in the biotechnology industry,” shares Michael Summers, Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and co-director of the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program. “It also provides opportunities to diversify the scientific workforce at Genentech, providing a win-win for the company and our students.”

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