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Tell us about yourself

When Niharika Deodhar moved from India to California, she had already completed a master’s in biotechnology and worked as a research associate at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in India. She sought out UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz) Extension’s Biotechnology program in 2014 in an effort to learn more about the American job market and build practical industry skills. By fall 2015, she had completed certificates in both Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, and had accepted a job as a scientist at a DNA sequencing company in the Bay Area. How did she do it?

What attracted you to UCSC Extension?

When I arrived in Silicon Valley, I wanted to learn something new. I already had a master’s degree and two years of job experience, so I really wanted to find a program that was industry focused and introduced new ideas. UCSC Extension’s courses were all new to me, from “Good Manufacturing Practices” to “Drug Development Process.” I finished the Biotechnology certificate in just nine months, then realized that the program offered some overlap with the Bioinformatics certificate, so I opted to take the remaining required courses and was able to complete the second certificate by October 2015. There’s a lot of overlap between the two programs, so it was a perfect combination for me.

What courses stood out to you?

“Drug Development Process” was an amazing class, because it was taught by an industry professional with 30 years of experience in biotech. His teaching was not typically what you would find in textbooks, but rather detailed what is actually done in industry. So much of his course material was provided directly from the FDA website. I really liked the assignments, which made us discuss and debate controversial topics related to biotechnology. One of his projects asked us to find a partner in class, choose a topic, and have one write for it, and the other write against it. I got to know so many people in that class because of those projects.

That’s one amazing thing about UCSC Extension: So many people in class are already working in industry, and there are people like me who had some experience and wanted to work in the U.S. There were many opportunities and assignments that asked us to interact.

What helped you find a job?

I realized early on that our instructors really wanted their students to succeed in their careers, and as such are very helpful resources. Throughout my studies I set up meetings with my instructors after class to discuss how to improve my resume and go forward with my job search. They were exceptionally helpful in pointing out how I could approach potential employers. There are so many people around you who want to help.

UCSC Extension again came into play for me when I was looking for work, in a surprising and unexpected moment. I was scheduled to be a student panelist at a quarterly Info Session, and prior to the event I reached out to the other panelists on LinkedIn. I noticed that one of the speakers writes about the career search, so I contacted him to ask if I could chat with him about his experience in the field. While we were on the phone, he told me that there was an opening at his company, and I ended up interviewing for the position shortly thereafter. He didn’t end up being available to attend the Info Session, so as it happened, the first time I met him was when I showed up to interview! That was when I realized that people want to help you, especially if you step forward and ask questions.

What do you do currently?

The things I learned at UCSC Extension, along with the experience I already had in the lab, really helped me get the job. If I hadn’t taken courses here, I wouldn’t have met so many people in my field. Now I work as a scientist at a DNA sequencing company, where I make DNA libraries, optimize protocols and complete other molecular biology work. I love it.