April 05, 2017
When Matthew Swash chose Biotechnology as his specialty in McMaster's Bachelor of Technology degree program, he knew it would be a gamble. After graduating from computer programming at Sheridan College in 2005, his background was almost entirely in IT. He didn't even take Biology in high school.
But after researching the industry and discovering its potential as a growing field, the 29-year-old from Hamilton took a leap of faith. “I wanted to try something completely new,” he says. “I figured there would be a variety of potential landing spots after graduation.”
Turns out, Swash was more than capable of handling the challenges the program threw his way - whether that meant being knee deep in hip waders testing larvae for West Nile virus or developing websites for one of the largest health policy makers in Canada during co-op placements. He thrived in the program's smaller classes, and even credits one particular panel discussion with the former president of GlaxoSmithKline for fueling his interest in pharmaceuticals. "I’ve developed a passion for all the needed steps to bring a drug from discovery, through regulations, to the patient," he says. "At the end of the day, I see that what I do has a direct impact on people and that’s something I wanted to have going into my career."
Swash graduated from the B.Tech. program on the Dean's list in 2013 and continued his educational path with a Master's of Biotechnology at the University of Toronto. Coincidentally, while completing his Master's (which he acquired this spring), Swash began an internship in a medical operations role with GlaxoSmithKline. When a permanent position opened up for a Digital Platform Manager six months later, Swash jumped on it. "It was a role that really encapsulated the business, the science, as well as the computer background that I had coming out of high school," he says. "Everything just lined up."
Swash says he wouldn't be where he is today without McMaster's B.Tech. program, which gave him the opportunity to study in-depth science while also learning broadly through various business courses as well. "This mixture of depth and breadth enabled me to be more agile in an industry (Pharmaceuticals) that expects more than a strong science background."
His advice to future and current students is fitting considering the niche he was able to carve for himself: "Look for opportunities to differentiate yourself," he says. "Very few programs teach science, engineering and business while allowing you to practice those skills in a co-op position. Make sure your employers know that you’re not just any student!"
Valerie Hillman, Recruiting and Promotion Coordinator, McMaster-Mohawk Bachelor of Technology Program 905-525-9140 ext. 21644