Theory and practice

Diversifying your skill set can help you gain an edge on the competition when looking for employment after graduation.

That’s according to Herman Marks, a student in the University of Auckland’s Master of Bioscience Enterprise programme, which aims to prepare graduates for the world outside where commercial viability is a fundamental aspect of research projects and product development.

“What university prepares you for at some level is a little bit different than what comes next. Companies expect you to have the knowledge there, but also to be able to transfer that to what they need. You need to understand a little bit more about commercial strategy beyond the wider New Zealand market as well as different regulatory aspects in places like the US, Australia and Europe. That’s something you don’t necessarily learn when you’re doing strictly science.”

Marks, who completed his biology degree in the USA, entered the programme to ensure he had the commercial competencies to thrive in the highly competitive biotech market. Now interning with a large nutraceutical company, he says the importance and advantages of a diversified skill set has become increasingly obvious.

“I knew that I needed to upskill my business skills and learn more about the commercial side of science. I was in sales and I realised how useful it was, and a big part of going back to school was making sure that not only I could get a job but that I actually had the skills to be able to do whatever I wanted or whatever I needed within the New Zealand market.

“Bioscience Enterprise prepares you to be a scientist and also allows you to analyse and assist other people on those teams, and communicate between the two. That’s where the real value lies.”

The programme, says Marks, features papers on accounting, intellectual property and science commercialisation. Students are paired with companies to work in the field—in his case a medicinal cannabis company—and encouraged to position themselves as intermediaries between the hard science and the commercial wings of the operation.

“There are people who have much more scientific knowledge than me but I feel that because of the programme and my past experience we can level with each other. I know which questions to ask regarding the science and regarding the commercialisation. The programme helped me to be an intermediary—or even to just manage things myself.”

As the Master of Bioscience Enterprise is the only course of its kind in New Zealand, faculty provides opportunities for students to enter tailormade internships that aren’t publicly listed, Marks says.

“The people running the programme know their stuff and can connect you to the companies that you need to get the experience and to actually enter the industry, because not a lot of these jobs are posted. It makes the programme very effective.”

To find out more about the possibilities of a postgraduate science degree at the University of Auckland, visit

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