Written By: Aicha Moutanni, Graduate Student in the MS in Regulatory Science Program
Editor’s Note: Aicha Moutanni is a member of the MS in Regulatory Science program’s Class of 2017. She currently works as a laboratory research specialist at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
Since I was young, education has always been part of my life. Pursuing an advanced degree has been a long-term goal for me. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you had asked me that question 16 years ago, I would have said that I wanted to be a pharmacist. As a high school student in Casablanca, Morocco, I volunteered for a company that specialized in food quality and safety during my summer breaks. In the laboratory, I worked as a quality controller, and within a few summers, I was promoted to a quality control supervisor who was in charge of making sure that all products met strict standards for quality and safety.
After earning my Bachelor of Science in organic chemistry, I worked at a pharmacy in Morocco overseeing patient prescriptions and later as a chemist assistant responsible for over-the-counter drug preparation. During this time, I garnered broad experience in pharmacy practice, and gained a clear understanding of patient safety as I prepared and dispensed prescriptions.
My journey in the field of research began in 2002, when I immigrated to the United States and began working as a research assistant, and then as a research associate, in laboratories at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) that spanned fields from neuroscience to cancer research. After working in basic research for 13 years, I built collegial and enduring relationships with all of my colleagues, who knew about my interest in continuing education and always encouraged me to pursue new learning opportunities.
Finding the Right Fit
Each position that I have held in my career has placed a strong emphasis on safety and following regulations. I have always been curious about where these regulations originated, and how they were developed. My initial plan was to apply to the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program at the School of Pharmacy, but due to a number of personal reasons, I was not able to follow through with that plan. Although I could not pursue that particular dream, I knew that I still wanted to pursue an advanced degree in an area closely connected to pharmacy — a field that would encompass my broad interests, bring me personal satisfaction, and give meaning to not only my work, but also to the lives of others.
A colleague suggested that I look into completing a master’s degree in regulatory science, as regulatory science professionals are currently in demand. I learned that a career in regulatory science can take many paths, including positions in the areas of clinical trials, drug development, food safety, medical device advancement, pharmaceutical research, and chemistry manufacturing and controls. I researched and compared the regulatory science programs at both Johns Hopkins University and the School of Pharmacy. Given my love for UMB and previous experience working with colleagues at the School of Pharmacy, I was convinced that my dream could best be accomplished at the School of Pharmacy.
It was a dream come true when I learned that I had been accepted into the School’s MS in Regulatory Science program.
Paving My Own Path
The MS in Regulatory Science program at the School of Pharmacy helps students build foundational knowledge on the laws, regulations, and good manufacturing processes mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its international counterparts. Courses are delivered online during five semesters, and are designed to give students a high degree of flexibility in integrating their studies with work and other commitments. During my studies in the program, I experienced immense satisfaction when working on individual projects, presentations, and team mini-reviews. I loved every minute of learning, and never shied away from any challenge, especially new learning opportunities. I enjoyed participating in the web conferences, asking questions, discussing my ideas with course managers, and working on collaborative projects with my classmates and team members.
In addition, I honestly could not have anticipated how beneficial the program would be in helping me build both a professional and social network. There are numerous opportunities for students to meet others outside of the program. The program also takes a truly multidisciplinary approach to learning that leverages scientific and technical knowledge with an in-depth understanding of the law. As a result of the two years that I spent in the program, my professional life has become more rewarding, and I have expanded my network outside of the program. Earning this degree has provided me with a conceptual and scientific foundation on which I can further build, and will be a stepping stone towards achieving my long-term career objectives.
Looking Towards Commencement
I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to James Polli, PhD, the Shangraw/Noxell Endowed Chair in Industrial Pharmacy and Pharmaceutics and director of the MS in Regulatory Science program at the School of Pharmacy, for his excellent leadership and guidance, and for making regulatory science a reality for my career. I also would like to thank all of the course managers and staff who contribute to the delivery of the course materials to students. I could not have achieved this level of success without their help and continued support.
For anyone who might be considering whether to apply to the MS in Regulatory Science program at the School of Pharmacy, know that this program will provide you with a strong foundation in regulatory science and hands-on experience in the discovery, regulation, and research of safe drug, biologics, and device use, as well as regulated products in the marketplace. This program offers graduates worldwide truly unique instruction that can be applied to all regulatory science positions across academia, government, and industry.