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Guest Editor - 2022 Issue 1

8 June 2022
Chris Palma

As one of our Science Journal readers, you may be saying to yourself, “Really? Another astronomer as guest editor?” While the inside joke is that I can’t go an hour without talking about astronomy, I am actually here to write about the wonderful preprofessional programs in the Eberly College of Science for students interested in health professions or who have their sights set on a career in business or industry.

For most of the last 20 years, I have talked to students and alumni who came to Penn State as the first step on their path to NASA or into a career in physics or astrophysics. Now, I am learning more and more about our award-winning students landing co-ops at top- notch companies like Merck and our alumni in health care fields, including graduates of

our pioneering Premedical-Medical (B.S./M.D.) program with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

I get asked frequently to talk about the numbers of students in the college, and I always picture our spring commencement day, as that really helps me visualize the diversity of interests among our undergraduates. Each year, it is always fun to watch the 15 or 20 astronomy students I have worked with walk across the stage, but then I am always amazed when they are followed by nearly 300 biologists, 150 or more biochemists, and 150 premed and science majors. While the numbers will probably always show that there are more students choosing Penn State as their first step to become a health professional instead of an astrophysicist, I’m glad that there’s room in the college to accommodate all of our students’ interests.

I hear great stories about our past and future health professionals from Ron Markle, our soon-to-retire director of Science and Premedicine majors. I’m glad that, in advance of his retirement, we can recognize the work that he and our team of prehealth advisors do to support all of the students at Penn State who are interested in health professions. In the first feature article, we also highlight some emerging initiatives and changes we’re making in the college to better support our prehealth students, including through increased and diversified scholarship support and an upcoming summer bridge program for first-year students from underrepresented groups.

Many of our alumni have gone into industry and business careers in science-related fields, and many of them are incredibly helpful to us when our students are looking to network outside of academia for internships, co-ops, and other career opportunities. Alumnus Lou Martarano directs our Science B.S./M.B.A. program, an interdisciplinary, integrated undergraduate-graduate degree program that provides students with a solid foundation in the sciences while preparing them to succeed both in pursuing their M.B.A. through the Penn State Smeal College of Business and in their future careers. We highlight this unique program in the second feature article.

I think I would disappoint everyone if I didn’t lapse into a story about astronomy, an astronomy student, or an astronomy alum like I have been doing for years now, but I already see that I’m finding more and more reasons to do the same with our prehealth students and our science/business students. I hope you find their stories as fun and engaging as I have!

Chris Palma

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Students and Teaching Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics