Graduate School Is Growing by Degrees

"It's perfect for me," student Yesol Sapozhnikov, RN, says of Cedars-Sinai's new Master of Science Degree Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine.

Cedars-Sinai's dynamic graduate school, which trains young scientists to make laboratory discoveries that shed light on diseases and inspire new therapies, has added a master's degree program.

Seven years after opening its doors to PhD candidates, the Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine in fall 2015 welcomed it first master's student: Yesol Sapozhnikov, RN. Among other features, the two-year curriculum makes it possible for participants to hold down jobs while pursuing their studies.

"It's perfect for me," said Sapozhnikov, an educator in the medical surgical rehabilitation division of nursing at Cedars-Sinai. "I can continue working, and it's a way for me to assess how much I like the research world before I jump into a full-time PhD program."

The Master of Science Degree Program already has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, certifying that it meets the most rigorous standards of higher learning. The PhD program, which has enrolled 56 students since its inception, was accredited in 2012.

"Having a vibrant, broad-based graduate program is extremely important for efforts to increase the breadth and depth of science at Cedars-Sinai," said Marilyn Ader, PhD, an associate professor of biomedical sciences who directs the master's program. "To be able to train the next generation of graduate students makes Cedars-Sinai a premier institution in both patient care and basic research."

Marilyn Ader, PhD, directs the master's program.

In their first year, master's and doctoral students take the same training. They learn the fundamentals of biomedical research and how to translate it into healthcare. For hand's-on experience, they rotate among three Cedars-Sinai laboratories.

In the second year, both groups of students, working with mentors, choose research projects to satisfy degree requirements. But while PhD candidates have several years to complete these endeavors, master's students have only one. So their projects are more modest in scope.

With the two-year degree option, the graduate school can embrace talented applicants who don't fit into the traditional PhD track, Ader said. These may include budding scientists, such as Sapozhnikov, who are not ready to commit to four or five years of training, as well as future physicians looking to burnish their research credentials for medical school.

Where might a master's degree lead? Ader knows first-hand. As a student at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, years ago, "I had no intention of going for a PhD," she recalled. "I had no idea what research was." So she got a master of science degree in biology.

Flash forward to 2016. Ader, doctorate in hand, is now associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and a renowned investigator in the pathogenesis of Type 2 diabetes.

For more information about the master's degree program, as well as the PhD program, which is directed by David Underhill, PhD, please visit the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine website.