Program History and Leadership
The Biotechnology Program's history goes back to 1986, when it was established by founding Director, Dean Charlie Hess (College of Ag & Environmental Sciences). Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology, Roy Doi, was appointed at the inaugural Biotechnology Program director in 1990, and served through 1997. Given the highly interdisciplinary, cross-college nature of biotechnology research, the campus leadership eventually moved the Biotechnology Program into the Office of Research, where it has been a Special Research Program for many years. Since its inception, the Biotechnology Program has been focused on supporting the research and training goals of campus faculty through the development of public-private partnerships with the biotech industry, as well as the administration of graduate training programs that emphasize translational research.
In 1989, Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin was hired as the Associate Director and worked closely with Prof. Doi to lead the Biotechnology Program, develop relationships with biotech industry partners and pursue extramural funding for graduate training. The duo were successful in putting together the interdisciplinary NIH Biotechnology Training Program, which was first funded in 1990. Dr. Newell-McGloughlin assumed leadership of the Biotechnology Program after Prof. Doi stepped down in 1997. That same year, the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology Program (DEB) was approved by Graduate Council as the formal training program for the NIH BTP. From 1999 to 2002, she served as both the Director of the Biotechnology Program and the inaugural Director of the UC Systemwide Life Sciences Informatics Program. In 2002, Dr. Newell-McGloughlin transitioned to the directorship of the UC Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program (UCBREP). UCBREP served all ten UC campuses and three national laboratories, and was co-located with the UC Davis Biotechnology Program until its closure in 2010. Dr. Newell-McGloughlin's expertise in agricultural biotechnology and global innovation systems has informed her work for numerous organizations over the years, including the UC Davis Office of Research, the UC Davis World Food Center, the US Department of State, the US Department of Agriculture, the International Life Sciences Institute, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) and most recently, Abu Dhabi's ASPIRE funding agency.
Dr. Judy Kjelstrom served the Biotechnology Program as Associate Director (1999-2002), Acting Director (2002-2004) and Director (2004-2018) for nearly twenty years, growing the DEB Program from ten Ph.D. students to over 200, and helping to launch the BioTech SYSTEM K-14 STEM education consortium. She is well known on campus and in the greater biotechnology industry community for her commitment to graduate student mentoring and professional development for career success. In addition to serving her graduate student "DEB flock", Dr. Kjelstrom has been generous in providing career mentoring to high school students, undergraduates, postdoctoral scholars and early career scientists interested in the "business of biotech". In 2016, Dr. Kjelstrom was recognized by the Sacramento Business Journal with a “Woman Who Means Business” award for her work to improve the region’s tech workforce and bioeconomy. Over the years, she has been invited to contribute comments and take part in numerous legislative hearings, including a series of California Legislature Assembly Select Committee on Biotechnology meetings organized by State Assembly Member, Jerry Hill in 2009-2010. In 2014, she gave testimony to the California Legislature Assembly Select Committee on Biotechnology on the need for investment in higher education as a key driver for technological innovation and a robust bioeconomy. She continues to engage in mentoring with the Leadership California and WomenUp Network organizations, promoting her recipe for success, "CPC - Competence, Passion and Compassion". Following her retirement in June 2018, Dr. Kjelstrom has stayed actively engaged in regional biotechnology education and public science literacy, chairing the Education Committee for Sacramento’s SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity.
Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung has served as Assistant Director (2006-2008), Associate Director (2008-2018), and Interim Director (2018-2019) for the Biotechnology Program for over thirteen years, playing a key role in coordination of courses, outreach efforts, and training grants. She has a long history with the Biotechnology Program and was one of the first ten DEB students in 1997, supported as a NIH Fellow (1997-1999) and Biotech Fellow (1999-2000), and graduating with a Ph.D. in Genetics and Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology in 2003. Dr. Jamison-McClung began her adjunct teaching career in 2001, instructing undergraduate and graduate lecture and lab courses in general biology, plant physiology, molecular biology, genetics and genomics. In 2004, she began serving as the lead instructor for the NSF ATE-funded "Train-the-Trainer" bioinformatics workshop, developed in collaboration with American River College, which has evolved into train-the-trainer workshops on precision agriculture, personal genomics and R programming. Currently, she instructs graduate level courses and workshops on platform life science and engineering technologies and tools (e.g. CRISPR) with an emphasis on the regulatory, policy, bioethics, entrepreneurship and IP paradigms that govern biotech applications. Dr. Jamison-McClung frequently gives invited talks on emerging technologies in food, agriculture and healthcare, serving as an expert resource for non-specialists, including policy makers, journalists, businesses (e.g. Costco Wholesale) and community groups. A strong advocate for women and underrepresented groups in science, she served as program coordinator for the UC Davis ADVANCE program (2013-2018), continues to serve as a member of the UC Davis Center for Multicultural Perspectives on Science (CAMPOS) committee. In 2019, Dr. Jamison-McClung was appointed Director and continues to develop publicly available resources and graduate training programs that promote research innovation in biotechnology.
Graduate Trainee Outcomes (1997 - present)
National discussions on graduate education have highlighted the importance of experiential learning, internships and job shadows to ensure that Ph.D. students have a realistic view of their career prospects, as the majority will not replicate the career paths of their academic advisors. The Biotechnology Program has been well ahead of the curve on recognizing the need for new training models to prepare Ph.D.’s for a variety of professional careers, formally establishing the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology (DEB) at UC Davis in 1997. From a small cadre of ten students, enrollment has grown to a steady-state of about 200 predoctoral scholars. Students, faculty and industry partners have been vocal in their support and recognize the value of our program. The average time to degree for DEB students, inclusive of the internship, additional coursework and professional development activities, is approximately 5.5 years (normative for a STEM Ph.D.). About 60% of the over 300 DEB graduates are currently working in the private sector (industry, research institutes, other business) and about 40% are working in the public sector (academia, K-14 education, government), indicating that DEB degree holders are successful in pursuing a wide range of STEM career paths. For institutions interested in replicating the DEB model, we have published an open access case study describing the organizational structure and key characteristics of the program.