Course Director Update: BPharmSci

Associate Professor Michelle McIntosh

The student numbers in the BPharmSci course continue to grow, matching the strong demand in the pharmaceutical sector for our graduates. A recent report of the pharmaceutical and medical technology sector in Victoria shows growth in the industry in excess of 30 per cent per annum. There are 23,000 employees supporting the manufacture of $1.35 billion in exports and bringing in revenue to the state of more than $12 billion.

For our graduates who move into research careers, the news is also great – Melbourne is ranked in the top three significant cities for biomedical research outputs, along with London and Boston.

During 2017, the faculty increased activities around employability skills, such as training on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, interview skills and curriculum vitae writing. Students in all of the three specialisations (drug discovery biology, medicinal chemistry, formulation science) have a professional placement unit in the second semester of third year; these are allocated on a competitive basis. This year more than 20 private sector companies and 15 academic staff provided four-week placements for 60 students.

A new initiative in the course for 2018 will be the introduction of micro-credentialing, which is gaining traction in higher education as a way for students to collect evidence for future employers around specific skills. Within the PharmSci course we will offer certification for some technical/laboratory competencies, as well as skills such as public speaking, written communication, problem-solving and teamwork.

Another new feature of the course will be the introduction of an academic mentoring program for all first-year students, which has been modelled on the success of the skills coaches in the pharmacy degree. In previous years students have moved into their specialisation stream during semester two of second year; however, all students commencing in 2018 and beyond will complete the first two years of the course together with specialisation and elective units in the third and fourth year of the course.

New teaching spaces purpose-designed for the PharmSci students to support small and large-group learning activities will be available this year. New teaching equipment has been introduced to support authentic learning tasks, which include a benchtop NMR, UHPLC and LC/MS instruments. Several academic staff are working on the development of virtual reality activities, so I think it’s fair to say we’re keeping pace with technology!

I would like to thank the Pharmaceutical Science Advisory Group for their input into the course review that informed many of the new initiatives mentioned, and the members of the course team, who are passionate about providing our students with an exceptional education.