Outcomes Careers

Since its inception in 1990, the Biotechnology Training Program at the University of Minnesota has developed its Alumni network. Now 120 graduates strong, the network is available to students seeking jobs, internships, and career planning advice. Our past trainees, of whom the vast majority joined the industrial sector, serve as an informal job referral group for our graduating trainees. Many attended our 2016 Alumni Symposium

Where Are They Now?

A recent survey of former trainees found that graduates of the training program have taken their careers in different directions from the traditional route of academia and research, to branching out in medicine and business (n=77).

Where are they now?

I graduated with my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Haynes group in May 2016. Through my internship at Boston Scientific, I was hired as a Process Development Engineer after graduation to work on a Boston Scientific-Mayo Ventures project. This position encompasses both research and development of products from early stages through human trials with doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

Sarah Gruba, Process Development Engineer, Boston Scientific, Former Trainee

 Where Are They Going?

In addition to many graduates who find positons in industry, graduates who purse careers in academia also find success. Of the graduates who work in academia, half are now in faculty positions. (n=24)

Where are they going?

Career Support

Each trainee in our program has a review with their advisor or a trainer to assess progress toward the degree and to discuss career aspirations. Additionally, we regularly invite trainee alumni to return and share their experiences in career development and in balancing career and family. The successes of our training grant alumni in their academic and industrial positions serve as the best examples for potential career trajectories in biotechnology for our current trainees.

I obtained my PhD in 2008. Since that time I have been working at Cargill in the Biotechnology Research and Development department. I am a principal biochemist and manage a team of 10 working on an industrial bioproduct produced via fermentation. The NIH Training Grant provided exposure to industrial biotechnology and emphasized the factors that influence the decision making in industry. There was exposure to company objectives, personnel, and industrial research approaches that prepared me for transitioning from academic training into a corporate researcher. I met my hiring manager as a trainee in the grant and I attribute that networking opportunity with my ability to be hired. I currently have two people from the training grant who work in my department and we have had many strong interns over the years that we have acquired through our relationship with the training grant.

Erin Marasco, Principal Biochemist Cargill



Outcomes Overview

The primary objective of this program is to nurture our exceptional students to become the next generation of biotechnology leaders and innovators. The Biotechnology Training Program excels at continuously evolving and adapting its focus and curriculum in response to current and future needs for biotechnology research and industry. For this, we rely on seeking feedback from multiple internal and external sources. Training faculty are strongly committed to the program’s core mission of giving exceptional students access to the highest-quality inter-disciplinary biotechnology training.

High private-sector demand for our graduates is a useful indicator of the program’s successful outcomes. Many of our trainees receive employment offers well in advance of their PhD defense. More than half are employed by industry immediately upon graduation.

Our former trainees who developed careers in academia and research laboratories have also been exemplary. In addition to conducting cutting-edge research, they continue to apply the skill sets acquired here to educate the next generation of students.

PhD Completion

PhD Completion

Scholars Supported




Students who are accepted into the Biotechnology Training Program receive up to two years of financial support including tuition, benefits, and a travel stipend. A graduate student may be nominated for the training by their graduate program or by an advisor. Most trainees enter the training program in the second semester of their first year after they have chosen an advisor. Nomination materials must include a nomination letter by the primary advising (and if applicable, co-advising) faculty member, a one-page thesis research plan statement by the student, the nominee CV, and University of Minnesota graduate school and undergraduate transcripts. Training program support starts in the second year.

Eligibility Requirements

Admission into the Biotechnology Training Program is highly competitive. Students recruited by the training grant faculty and admitted into the training grant are among the top students in their program. To be eligible for the program, students must be of high academic standing and enrolled in a designated graduate program from the list below. They must be a US citizen or permanent resident. Trainees are selected based on their academic qualifications, research aptitude, and potential. Priority will be given to students pursuing the development of cross-disciplinary skills by joining a PhD program in a discipline different from their undergraduate discipline and conducting interdisciplinary thesis research involving collaboration with other disciplines in our program. We aim to have a balanced representation of graduate programs and disciplines among our trainees to accomplish our mission of cross-disciplinary training.

Graduate programs

International Exchange

International Exchange

International Exchange

Biotechnology Training Grant Exchange Program

The opportunity to see research and life as a graduate student in another country is something that would not have happened without the training grant program. I’m also not sure I would have ever tried sushi in the US. My husband and I didn’t realize how much we went to Sakura after my trip until the owner of the restaurant sent us baby gifts when we started bringing our little ones there years later! My 6 year old won’t eat cheese but she loves eel – go figure!

Former trainee Heather Haemig, Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department, Gustavus Adolphus College



In an increasingly globalized world, it is important that students are exposed to different cultures and acquire cross-cultural skills. We offer our trainees participation in two international exchange programs – one with Japan and another with Norway.

Nara Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo

BTI has a long-standing exchange program with the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Japan. Each year three to six graduate students are given the opportunity for a 3-week paid visit in a laboratory to work on short research projects and learn about the culture of their host country. A similar group of students from NAIST visits the University of Minnesota and works on short projects in faculty trainers’ labs. Social activities and excursions are planned by graduate students from the hosting institutions. Every other year, BTI or NAIST hosts a joined research symposium that brings together biotechnology faculty and students from both institutions.

In the Spring of 2016, the BioTechnology Institute signed a memorandum of agreement with the University of Tokyo. Students will have the opportunity to work in the labs of faculty members in their Biotechnology Research Center and Department of Biotechnology. The University of Tokyo is a premier research institution in Japan, and its biotechnology research is highly complementary to that of our groups. Another exchange program is in development with Osaka University.

University of Oslo and Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Fellowships to support travel and research exchange for University of Minnesota graduate students are also available with the University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, through the Norwegian Centennial Chair program. This trilateral agreement is funded by a significant endowment and annual contributions by each institution.

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

Biotechnology Training Grant Itasca

Itasca Forestry and Biological Station

Each year trainees are invited to study at the University of Minnesota’s Itasca Forestry and Biological Station. Located in Itasca State Park at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, it’s a favorite getaway for many from the Twin Cities. The research station is dedicated to learning how ecosystems work, appreciating their value, and preserving them for future generations. 

Itasca Camp – Prior to Fall Semester

The Itasca Camp is two-week training course that serves as a welcome and orientation for the incoming class of graduate students. It builds a community of the students and faculty who are involved in the training grant, and fosters new opportunities for education and collaboration. It is co-administered by the departments of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development (GCD), and Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics (BMBB).

Morning and afternoon sessions are held in the field station classrooms, laboratories, and computer lab. Students learn or review techniques in biochemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genetics, and structural biology.

Winter Retreat

Every winter, we hold a weekend retreat at the University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biology Research Station. Faculty, trainees, and invited alumni spend the weekend away from the Twin Cities in large cabins. Trainees organize the retreat, including meal planning and cooking. This retreat is meant for community building; there is ample time for socializing, gathering around the fireplace, cooking, skiing, snow shoeing, etc. A block of time is carved out for program specific activities led by traning grant faculty or alumni.

History of the Itasca Forestry and Biological Station

Since it was established in 1909, the Itasca Station has hosted tens of thousands of students, scientists, and teachers. The Itasca Library houses more than 900 articles and dissertations as well as about 2,500 student papers based on research carried out at Itasca. The Itasca Field Station is located on the grounds of Minnesota’s oldest state park, on the eastern shore of Lake Itasca.

The retreats were genuinely the most helpful aspect of the grant, since informal discussion is amazingly fruitful when it comes not only to learning about the research fields of others, but in spurring thoughtful dialogue about your own projects as well. The grant connected me to others doing similar research in different departments across the university, which helped me develop and expand my thinking about my projects in a way that I think would have been lacking were it not for the program.

Adam Woodruff, Vacuum Physicist, Founder BDW Biotechnologies. MSU National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory/FRIB, Former trainee
Internship Overview

Internship Overview

Internship Overview

David Chau

I spent several months interning at Baxter International where I worked with multiple scientists on how to optimize process conditions for maximum yield of monoclonal antibodies. The ability to do an internship during my graduate career was extremely helpful as it helped bridge my academic career to research being carried out in an industrial setting. Mentorship during my internship was extremely helpful and impactful in my future scientific career as it helped apply some of the skills I learned during my graduate career to an industrial setting.

David Chau – PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering, University of Minnesota – Current trainee


An industrial internship is required for all trainees except for those that have industrial experience prior to joining the training grant. Trainees typically do their internship during the second summer of their traineeship. Trainees have found internships at local companies but we have also placed students with national and international companies.

We leverage faculty contacts and our extensive alumni network to find internships. The BioTechnology Institute and its faculty have established an extensive network of contacts with a wide range of biotechnology companies. BTI and the research of many of our TG faculty members has received support from industry, including many well-known pharmaceutical, biotech, and bioengineering companies.

Click here for more information on internship outcomes