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Master of Science in Applied Chemical Science & Technology

One Year, One New Career Trajectory

Riley Rogan

Clinical Technologist

As Riley Rogan completed his bachelor’s in chemistry in spring 2020, COVID-19 began to send the world into lockdown. With the future uncertain and career opportunities limited, he examined his options. “I decided to do a one-year master’s program and pick up more education while this pandemic unfolded,” Riley said.

He enrolled in the UW Master of Science in Applied Chemical Science & Technology program to further explore his passion for analytical chemistry and become more competitive in his field. His investment in additional education paid off when he returned to the job market. “I thought that it was incredible to hear from the people who were interviewing me that the master’s degree made me a much stronger candidate,” said Riley.

In this Q&A, Riley shares his experience in the program and how it helped him get the boost he needed to land a job as a clinical technologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Can you tell us about your job?

I wanted a job that would let me use my chemistry skills to help people, and so I was really excited to have found a job as a clinical technologist for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

I work in the Pharmacokinetics Lab, which processes blood samples from cancer patients from all around the U.S. and Canada. We analyze the samples using a method called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to quantify how much chemotherapy drug is still in their plasma after a treatment. We then provide individual patients with a highly targeted dose of chemotherapy for their next treatment that will help them clear the cancer without being too toxic for their bodies.

How did the UW Master of Science in Applied Chemical Science & Technology program help you with your career?

This program helped me become a stronger candidate for this job. Something that immediately stuck out to everyone who interviewed me was the fact that I had a master’s degree and a strong background in chromatography. If I didn’t do the master’s program and graduate research with the group I was with, I would have had a very slim chance of getting this job.

How did the curriculum help you get the skills for this role?

Chemical Separation Techniques and Instrumental Analysis gave me a solid foundation in chromatography. Biomolecular Analysis exposed me to lab instrumentation and methodology that I use every day at work. My graduate research with Dr. Rob Synovec provided me with hands-on experience with chromatography on a daily basis.

Could you tell us more about your graduate research?

I worked in Dr. Synovec’s Gas Chromatography Lab. My research project was an instrumental analysis study in collaboration with Agilent Industries using their new Intuvo 9000 Gas Chromatography System. We conducted tests with our library of compounds to evaluate the instrument’s performance and used an in-house software program to improve the reproducibility of the instrument.

What did the instructors bring to the master’s program?

The instructors did not have an easy job, especially since everything was moved online for the pandemic. Despite the challenges, it was clear they put in a lot of extra work to ensure that nothing was diminished in the online transition. Someone I’d like to highlight is Dr. Matt Bush, who is a professor for the Biomolecular Analysis course. He planned, filmed and edited the footage for all our video labs in an effort to make the content more immersive. He definitely went the extra mile to make a complicated class accessible.

I also talked to Dr. Bush about biomolecules and Seattle’s budding biotech industry. While I was looking for jobs, he pointed me to additional companies to apply to and offered to connect me with his former students who had jobs that I was interested in.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in the program?

I’d recommend finding a research group as soon as possible because the scientific process can be slow and a year is a short window. I was lucky to start the program with a research group so that I could hit the ground running. Go online to learn about different professors’ labs, personalities and research groups’ cultures, and email professors and advisors to get a sense of who needs a helping hand.