Kimberly Updegraff, BSP, MS ‘15, RAC, is an alumna of the Master of Science (MS) in Regulatory Science program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Kimberly UpdegraffKimberly attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for two years before enrolling at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in pharmacy. She later earned her Master of Science in health science at Towson University, where her studies concentrated on health care administration. She is a registered pharmacist in the state of Maryland and a member of the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society. She currently works as a regulatory project manager for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where she plans to continue working in regulatory science and hopes to become more involved with developing regulatory policy.

What inspired your interest in the field of regulatory science?

After graduating from the School of Pharmacy, I practiced pharmacy in a number of different settings and was exposed to a wide range of career paths. I became interested in public health and enrolled in a master’s degree program at Towson University. During my time in the program, I was able to focus on community health and health policy. However, I soon became equally curious about the field of drug development. Regulatory science was a natural fit for me, as it encompassed many of my interests. Working in this field has afforded me the opportunity to combine my pharmacy background with my interests in science and public health.

What interested you most about the MS in Regulatory Science program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?

As a pharmacist, I did not have any formal training in regulatory science, so I was unfamiliar with many issues and considerations related to drug development and regulation. The MS in Regulatory Science program at the School of Pharmacy covers the major areas of drug and biologics research and development, from pre-clinical to clinical trials and beyond. It is an online program that is designed for the working professional, which allows me to attend class when it is convenient for my schedule.

Global drug development has also become more commonplace as manufacturers pattern development programs to align across multiple countries and agencies. The MS in Regulatory Science program offers insight into this emerging area of global regulatory affairs. It has a diverse student body with people from different countries and professional backgrounds coming together, which allows for different perspectives and interesting discussions. The School of Pharmacy is also located within close proximity to major government institutions, such as the FDA and the National Institutes of Health, as well as many large and small pharmaceutical research companies, which presents a number of unique learning and research experiences for students in the program.

How would you describe your experience in the program?

The program is interesting, challenging, and fast-paced. A fair amount of discipline is required to stay on track. Faculty members are very supportive and always available to answer questions or provide feedback on a project. There are lectures as well as multiple group projects and several individual projects required for each class. Students come from many different backgrounds, with some currently working as pharmacists, nurses, researchers, and legal experts, among others. This diversity makes discussions more interesting. I had the opportunity to work with students who live as far away as Malaysia. While the time difference can pose a bit of a challenge, group members are committed and willing to work together to complete assignments on time.

What are your thoughts about the coursework offered through the program?

The lectures are interesting and the coursework is challenging, but manageable. There is a teleconference following every module that provides the opportunity for students to ask questions of instructors about the presentations. Blackboard’s collaborate function also makes it easy to communicate with other students and the course managers. The professors are knowledgeable, and I learned a great deal from my time in the program. We explored a number of areas in which I previously had little experience, such as chemical properties that affect drug design and genome research.

How do you believe the program has helped you take your career to the next level?

I have always had an interest in regulatory policy, and within the past year, I have been afforded the opportunity to work on several projects aimed at improving and developing policy related to drug development. My experiences in the MS in Regulatory Science program provided an excellent foundation for my work on these projects, as well as the confidence needed to pursue my career goals.

What is your advice to prospective students who might be thinking about applying to this program?

A career in regulatory science is very rewarding; however, prospective students should consider their personal goals and objectives. This program is designed to further the career and interests of individuals interested in regulatory science and drug and biologics development. It is a great way for students to stay abreast of new tools and practices related to drug and biologics regulation. Students will leave the program with confidence, knowing that they have the skills necessary for a career in government or industry.

If you have specific questions about the program, I recommend attending a virtual open house. You will find that many of your questions are addressed during the presentation. In addition, the program managers and the professors are very responsive and helpful with any questions or concerns that students may have before starting of the program and during the semester.