The international expansion of the IMC Krems Biotechnology degree programmes






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Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 1

The international expansion of the IMC Krems Biotechnology degree programmes

Development of the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems’ Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree programmes of the Department Life Sciences

Compiled by Barbara Entler, Harald Hundsberger and Wolfgang Schütt


This report is based on regular analysis of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology degree programme covering the period up to 2014. Together with representatives from industry and research Heinz Boyer applied for accreditation of the programme in 2000. From 2002 it was offered at the university which he himself had built up. His courage and dedication to the programme have made a significant contribution to its success.

The defining aspects and lessons learned from Boyer’s 12-year involvement with the degree programme are described in the article Bildung und Innovation (Education and innovation) by Wolfgang Schütt and in the book Wissenschaft und Technologie (Science and Technology) published by Leibniz Sozietät der Wissenschaften zu Berlin in 2014. The most significant results of this educational project, which is now held in high regard in Austria and abroad, are presented here to provide an overview for potential applicants and students.

Between 2002 and 2014, 466 students graduated from diploma, master and bachelor degree programmes. Close personal contact and media research allowed us to track the professional careers and continuing educational development (PhD or other study programmes) of over 80% of those graduates. As far as can be determined, about 1-2% of graduates are not in employment and according to Austrian government sources none are classified as unemployed.

Graduates value the interest which is shown in their careers by the department’s staff and guest lecturers. This helps to form a special bond and is also welcomed by current students. A detailed summary which expands upon the areas introduced above is provided below.

Analysis, facts and figures

Curriculum design

The curricula are designed to enable students to quickly and efficiently focus on making valuable contributions on their semester-long internships abroad and in their future careers at international research organisations and industrial enterprises. Students therefore learn about the latest developments in science and industry as well as the aspects of international management (e.g. quality, law, patents, licensing, regulations, marketing and clinical studies) alongside intensive lab work.


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 2 English language elements

Good English skills are essential for a successful internship and for pursuing a career with research organisations and internationally focused technology companies. English has also been the accepted lingua franca of the international science community for many decades. There have been no drop outs as a result of poor English skills.

International students

Between 10 and 20% of students are from outside Austria. They originate mainly from Germany, followed by Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. The number of students from Scandinavia, France and Spain is on the increase. Application interviews are often held over the internet. Teaching takes place in small groups and team-based lab work and projects enhances the intercultural focus of the programme and fosters cross-cultural understanding. Visiting foreign students

Visiting students from many countries including Mexico, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy have taken part in regular master or bachelor programmes during their semester-long stays at the university. Reciprocal visits to foreign universities have not been a priority for IMC Krems students because they already have two opportunities to go on six to eight-month internships or research placements (see below) and the programme’s tight curriculum can prove an obstacle. However, students can study for a semester abroad if there is an 80% match between the Biotechnology and the foreign university's curriculum. Thanks to an exchange programme established in 2014 students can now obtain a double master degree from IMC Krems and the University of Udine by spending two semesters at the Italian university.

EU programmes for individual students from six different universities in Europe

Every year since 2008 the Biotechnology Department has selected three to five students to take part in an EU intensive programme. The specialist biotechnology courses are organised and hosted by IMC Krems and universities in Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland.

Interreg project in cooperation with the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Several courses forming part of selected curriculum elements lasting between one and two weeks took place at the partner institutions in České Budějovice and Nove Hrady as well as at IMC Krems to increase the choice of educational opportunities available to students, especially medical equipment-based practicals. This programme enabled a member of the Life Sciences Department’s staff to successfully complete complex tests for her PhD at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, in collaboration with examiners from the Medical University of Vienna.

International lecturer exchanges

Reciprocal lecturer exchanges have taken place with universities in Ancona, Antwerp, Breda, Brighton, Malta, Nove Hrady, Turku and Udine.


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 3 International assessment activities

- Advising the Research Council of Norway on the allocation of funding for nanobiotechnology research (2012)

- Acting as assessor and examiner for PhD examinations at the University of Brighton (2013)

- Peer review activities for various biotechnology journals Organisation and management of international conferences

As one of the initiators of the biennial Scientific and Clinical Application of Magnetic Carriers international conference in America and Europe, the department has been involved in its organisation and management since 2002. Between 350 and 420 scientists, engineers and clinicians from over 40 countries have taken part in conferences in Tallahassee (2002), Lyon (2004), Krems (2006), Vancouver (2008), Rostock (2010), Minneapolis (2012) and Dresden (2014). The event usually comprises around 100 scientific presentations and 250 displays. More than 20 IMC Krems students have completed internships (e.g. 12 in Vancouver and six in London), published articles, written contributions to books or received PhDs in this area of nanobiotechnology. The first conference took place in Rostock in 1996 and preparations are currently under way for the 11th instalment in 2016 in partnership with the University of British Columbia. Krems is a possible venue for 2018.

International conferences (invitations to speak, conference chairpersons)

Staff have presented research findings at international conferences in countries including Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA.

They have taken advantage of these opportunities for international research cooperation and to help students and graduates find placements and jobs.

International publications

Staff have published articles and papers in leading international academic journals with high impact factors, including:

 Journal of Biological Chemistry

 Oncogene

 Journal of Cell Biology

 Journal of Biomolecular Screening

 International Journal of Cancer

International teaching staff

The department employs professors from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and the USA. They have a wealth of international experience built up in the course of high-level research, commercial and teaching activities in America, Germany, Japan, Slovakia and the UK.


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 4 International guest lecturers

Around 50% of courses are taught by guest lecturers who work in research or industry. Guest lecturers with post-doctoral teaching qualifications and PhDs, as well as experience gained at universities, leading research institutions and life science companies in Austria and 22 other countries have taken part in the programme. A total of 80 foreign guest lecturers from universities and technology businesses have taught on the programme. Students take advantage of this direct contact to help them prepare for their internships or future careers. The highlights have included presentations and lectures from a Nobel prize winner, the pioneers of and witnesses to the development of artificial organs, managers of important biomedical research and industry projects, politicians in educational posts and university vice chancellors, as well as on subjects such as new analytical techniques, the development of vaccines, stem cell and cancer research, MRI diagnostics and marine biotechnology.

International conference delegates

The biotechnology department hosted 11 international life sciences conferences in Krems between 2003 and 2014. They were attended by a total of 555 foreign research and industry delegates from 45 different countries. All students were able to enjoy the international atmosphere at the annual two to four day event, play a part in the discussions in the role of moderators and take advantage of networking opportunities. Many have also invited their internship supervisors from countries such as Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Singapore, the UK and the US to give presentations at this international conference. The events also benefit the organising team and their partners by enabling them to further their personal development and enhance their project planning skills.

International round table discussions with research and industry partners and graduates

The annual conferences usually include panel discussions on educational topics and career opportunities. They are moderated by students and have involved representatives of the life sciences industry from Austria, America, China, Germany, Finland and Singapore. In the last few years graduates of the programme have shared and held lively discussions on their experience of working at universities in Atlanta, Berlin, Massachusetts (Harvard), Karlsruhe, Leipzig, London, Munich, Stockholm and Sydney, or at leading international biotech companies including Baxter and Boehringer in Vienna, Morphosys in Munich, Novartis in Basel, Acambis in Boston and Genentech in San Francisco.

Semester-long internship abroad on the bachelor and master programme

60-80% of students do a six to eight-month internship abroad at a leading life sciences organisation to gain valuable experience and, in most cases, complete the experimental work for their bachelor or master thesis. Students who take both the bachelor and master degrees at IMC Krems over a period of five years frequently do two of these internships. Fewer than 20% do not opt for an internship abroad.

Some 83% visit universities and research companies. They are competing with applicants from other universities around the world for these internship places. A total of 307 students have completed internships at 134 universities in 35 different countries. A further 33 students chose to do their internships at biotech companies in a total of 14 different countries (see list 1).


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 5

A very popular destination is the USA, where 61 interns have been placed at 33 research institutions (including nine at Berkeley National Laboratory near San Francisco, eight at Harvard University and six at New York University). 62 internships were completed in Australia (including 31 at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney), 56 in the UK (including 11 at Cambridge, eight at Oxford, eight at Kings College London and eight at the University of Edinburgh), around 60 in Germany and 20 in Sweden.

IMC Krems has entered into formal agreements with all 170 of these foreign institutions regarding the supervision of interns, which is carried out in close cooperation with the students’ supervisors in the Biotechnology Department.

Over the years the feedback on the performance of our interns has been almost without exception positive. In most cases the host universities have clearly expressed their desire to receive further interns in their final reports. The following statistics demonstrate this: the Garvan Institute in Sydney has accepted 31 of our students, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver ten and Cambridge, the University of London, Oxford, Harvard, Lund University in Sweden, New York University, the National University of Singapore, the National University of Ireland, Stockholm University and the University of San Francisco have all welcomed ten of our interns. Our students frequently receive offers of places on PhD programmes during their internships.

Many students have completed internships at a variety of universities in Austria, including 40 at the Medical University of Vienna. With a view to planning their future careers, 50% of students opted to do their internships at one of 32 companies, e.g. 50 at Baxter and 28 at Boehringer.

Maintaining contact with graduates and interns abroad

Graduates, interns and intern supervisors appreciate the visits they receive from departmental staff. These visits are normally also used to strengthen relations with leading institutions in locations such as New York, Massachusetts (Harvard), Lund, Vancouver, Berlin, Leipzig, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Cambridge and Reykjavik.

Careers at international research organisations and companies

83% of students have chosen to complete an internship at a research organisation abroad, while 70% have started their careers at companies. Less than 5% of these companies have been located outside Austria.

We have found that more than 110 of the 310 graduates who we have tracked have completed or are studying towards a PhD. This equates to between 25% and 50% of any single year group and is a remarkable proportion when compared to other university-level degree programmes. Of these 110 graduates, 45% of those who have gone on to study for a PhD did so at one of ten Austrian universities, including 22 at the Medical University of Vienna alone.

Doctoral studies abroad

60 graduates have decided to continue their academic careers on PhD programmes abroad, and some of these have progressed to postdoctoral positions at foreign universities. A significant number of these have opted for universities located in London, Boston, Cambridge, Stockholm, Ghent, Cardiff, Singapore and Germany.


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 6

The number of bachelor degree graduates who have been accepted onto PhD programmes directly after leaving IMC Krems is particularly noteworthy. Between one and three students a year have chosen this path, going on to study at universities in Cambridge, Oxford, London, Galway, Otago and Linköping, among others.

Personal contact with these graduates often reveals that they are keen to return home at some point.

Outstanding achievements by students and graduates abroad

Many of our students and graduates have achieved notable successes during internships or in their careers at foreign research organisations and companies. The following list is by no means exhaustive.

- Four students have received the award for the best Austrian university of applied sciences diploma or master thesis from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. The theses were completed at universities and research organisations in Ghent, Krems, Biberach and Copenhagen.

- Eva Fast, who studied at IMC Krems between 2002 and 2006, received the 2013 award for best young Austrian scientist in the USA from the Austrian Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, Karlheinz Töchterle.

- Numerous students and graduates have published articles in high-ranking international scientific journals such as Science, Gut and the British Journal of Cancer.

- Many graduates have contributed to books.

International research activities

All of our research activities are aimed at the international scientific community, with a focus on applied research and the development of new technologies. The degree programme’s stimulating courses are provided by experienced teaching staff and prepare students thoroughly for international approaches at an early stage. Since 2005 we have received around EUR 10 million of funding – an unusually high amount for a single university of applied sciences department – for projects carried out in cooperation with 18 international businesses and technology companies as well as several universities and colleges.

- Our international R&D partners include Baxter, Beckman Coulter, Molecular Devices, Tecan, Takeda and Sony.

- Together with partners from Trebon in the Czech Republic, bioactive substances contained within algae have been isolated and characterised as part of three EU Interreg programmes.

Scientific Advisory Board of the Department of Biotechnology

- An international advisory board made up of members from the USA, Germany and Austria supported the FHplus project on the structures of cell-based assays and technology, which took place between 2005 and 2010.


Erscheinungsdatum: Dezember 2014 7

- The department set up its own advisory board in 2012. Its members have experience at universities and technology companies, and in the pharmaceuticals industry in the USA, Germany and Austria.

The board’s patron is biotech company founder Ivar Giaever (USA), the winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physics. He regularly holds guest lectures for all our students and has links with the department as a result of his work in the field of biophysical measuring instruments. Once a year the board carries out evaluations and makes recommendations on the development and future focus and design of the biotechnology degree programme as well as the work of the department as a whole.


The highly successful international expansion of the biotechnology degree programme at the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems is attributable to the vision of the initiators of the degree programme, for which Heinz Boyer brought together various partners from academia and industry.





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