Keck Graduate Institute

By Sheldon Schuster, President, Keck Graduate Institute | 2019-02-13 09:18:26

Sheldon Schuster

President, Keck Graduate Institute

Just 32 miles from Los Angeles, Claremont is a small city situated in the Pomona Valley, at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The city is well-known for its lush greenery, charming tree-lined streets, and elegant historic architecture. Along with the serene beauty of mountain peaks and trees, Claremont also hosts some of the nation's most highly respected educational and cultural institutions. Graduates and research scholars, smitten by the foliage, the abundance of parks, and the downtown village area, often make Claremont their permanent home. It’s no wonder, as this city was nicknamed "The City of Trees and PhDs!”

Proud to be one of the seven Claremont Colleges is Keck Graduate Institute, otherwise known as KGI. Founded in 1997, by Henry E. Riggs, then President of Harvey Mudd College, KGI was established to serve the need for scientists and engineers to help translate basic scientific discoveries into practical applications to improve the health of people.

KGI was founded through a generous $50 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation and received a tremendous boost from the same to lead the way forward. Henry E. Riggs became KGI’s founding President and guided the institution through its first seven years. Today, under the direction of President Sheldon Schuster, KGI continues to grow—both in terms of its number of enrolled students and its reputation for excellence—and it represents The Claremont Colleges’ first entry into graduate-level, application-based scientific research and education. In fact, it remains the only graduate institute in the country with this sole focus.

At the core of every function is KGI’s mission statement: “To enrich society with breakthrough approaches to education and translational research in the life sciences.” To that end, KGI ensures excellence in the areas of life science with an entrepreneurial approach and an emphasison hands-on industry experience. With a wealth of industry connections, KGI introduces new pathways for students to become leaders within healthcare and the applied life sciences. Through its three schools of academics: Henry E. Riggs School of Applied Life Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Minerva Schools at KGI, the Institute offers innovative postgraduate degrees and certificates that integrate
life and health sciences, business, pharmacy, engineering, and genetics, with a focus on industry projects, in-depth industry experiences, and team collaborations.

To ensure quality and rigor in all of its programs, KGI has appointed committees for Curriculum Review, Assessment, and Institutional Effectiveness, which oversee course delivery and assessment regularly. The Institute also uses its advisory board and industry partners to ensure that students have the requisite skills and knowledge for career success, which are finely tuned through classroom sessions, internships, poster presentations, Team Master’s Projects, and career services events.

“KGI is committed to active learning in all classes through carefully designed courses and programs to provide authentic learning opportunities for all students,” says Schuster. “For example, students work together to solve real-world problems in our industry-sponsored projects in the TMP program, work through authentic cases in business courses, run experiments in labs, and participate in other hands-on activities.”

Cultivating research-based knowledge
KGI sets itself apart from other institutes with its unique research opportunities, distinctive institutional capabilities, and interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty members from diverse backgrounds. To strengthen these assets, the Institute has set up four centers.

“The Amgen Bioprocessing Center includes state-of-the art labs that bring together experts and resources to train scientists and engineers for rewarding careers in bioprocessing,” explains Schuster. “The Center for Biomarker Research is dedicated to education and applied research activitiesthat expand knowledge and development of biomarkers as a tool for diagnostics, drug development, and the practice of medicine in the 21st century. Established to raise awareness of rare diseases and promote promising treatments, the Center for Rare Disease Therapies educates students to become biotech industry leaders who understand rare disease sand recognize the need for remedies. And, celebrating the great 20th-century inventors Arnold Beckman and Wallace Coulter,” Schuster continues,“the Science Heritage Center showcases the pioneering analytical instruments that helped revolutionize the bioscience and diagnostic industries.”

When it comes to research initiatives, KGI always strives to translate their academic acumen, along with the power and potential of pharmaceuticals and the life sciences, into practice for the benefit of society.
“Research pursued at KGI covers the full spectrum, from the theoretical and fundamental to the applied and world-changing,” says Schuster. “Both faculty and students actively engage in research in the following areas: therapy discovery and development, mechanisms of disease, education and assessment, medical diagnostics and devices, neurobiology and neuropharmacology, systems and computational evolutionary biology, bioprocessing and biotechnology, infectious disease and immunology, psychosocial research, health data analytics and informatics, and cardiovascular devices. In addition, we offer three research-based programs: Master of Science in Applied Life Sciences, Master of Science in Translational Medicine, and Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Life Sciences.”

To support deserving students in the achievement of their academic goals, KGI provides several types of financial aid, including international student loans and scholarships that are awarded on the basis of merit, need, and/or academic qualifications and professional experience.

KGI has grown steadily in size and impact since its founding in 1997. More than75 bioscience companies are represented on its Board of Trustees and Advisory Council, which includes Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and MD of Biocon Limited. Approximately85 alumni and corporate speakers deliver lectures and talks to students each year. Ninety-two percent of graduates have a job within six months of graduation,with 48 percent of graduates securing their jobs before graduation and60 percent of graduates receiving job offers from their internships or corporate-sponsored projects.

“By every measure, KGI is in a league of its own,” Schuster concludes. “Our faculty is world-class. Our students are poised to become international leaders in their fields. KGI understands the importance of continuing to internationalize the biotech and healthcare sectors; to that end, over the next 10 years, the Institute aims to grow its portfolio of programs and increase the degree options for international students.”

Sheldon Schuster, President
Sheldon Schuster received his B.S. in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Arizona. After completing his doctorate, he entered the teaching profession. Prior to his tenure at KGI, Schuster served at the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.