First-Generation College Graduate Finds Community and Fulfillment in Applied Biotechnology Program 

Brandon Arbuckle January 5, 2024
Graphic with a photo of Jason Muljadi, a student in the UW Applied Biotechnology program.

When Jason Muljadi researched biotechnology master’s programs in the US, there was something about the University of Wisconsin Master of Science in Applied Biotechnology that stood out to him: practicality. He appreciated that the program wasn’t exclusively theory-based, but instead emphasized learning techniques and skills firsthand.

“You will get to learn how to be a leader in this biotech landscape,” he said. “That is such an advantage—a competitive advantage—over all of the other programs that I’ve been looking at.”

Jason is relatively new to the biotechnology field. Before he enrolled in the UW program, he was interested in becoming an Alzheimer’s disease researcher. A first-generation college graduate from Jakarta, Indonesia, he completed his undergraduate degree in neuroscience and history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jason sitting down on a set of stairs and wearing a stole in honor of his graduation from the University of California, Los Angeles.“It was definitely a challenging journey to get into college, much less understanding the role of what it is like to grow up in the sciences,” he said.  

Jason’s first exposure to biotechnology was through his mother, who’s spent the majority of her career at Thermo Fisher Scientific, a biotech company that provides pharmaceutical and laboratory services. His mother’s quality mindset spoke volumes to Jason, and he earned his first biotech experience during his undergraduate years by working on the company’s pre-production team as an intern. 

He was drawn to biotechnology for the multitude of paths one can take and the chance to collaborate with various stakeholders. Similar to neuroscience, there were also many interdisciplinary studies involved, such as biology, business, and healthcare. 

“There’s a sort of fulfillment you get when you help out others with different capabilities,” he said. “As much as I loved research at that time, I realized being in a team and doing a lot of different things all at once helped me—that was the thing that inspired me the most.” 

Jason found further fulfillment by joining a biotech startup company, where he donned a bunny suit to work in a cleanroom and learn about the culture process from start to finish. During his time at the startup, Jason began to see a future in biotech, one where he had the flexibility to take on a variety of roles while advancing in the science world. 

RELATED: Business Professional Returns to School and Attains Biotechnology Job Before Graduating

Jason was familiar with online learning prior to enrolling in the UW program—his senior year at UCLA saw a shift to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the UW Applied Biotechnology program having a 100 percent online curriculum, he’s been able to complete courses from his home in California while continuing to work full-time. Rather than feel overwhelmed, the program has helped Jason maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“Having asynchronous lectures or courses that provide that level of flexibility really improves one’s own mental health and helps me to delve into activities that I never thought of before,” he said.

For Jason, this includes bouldering and going on hikes with his partner without the need to worry about attending in-person lectures at set times.

Jason outside wearing a winter jacket and beanie as he sits next to a snow sculpture he made with leaves on top of it. “That’s definitely one of the gifts of this [program],” he said. “It doesn’t take away from the other important aspects of your life, it only builds up on your professional and personal life. That’s something that can’t be overstated.”

As a first-gen student at UCLA, Jason admitted to feeling somewhat shy about reaching out to academic advisers. In the UW Applied Biotechnology program, he quickly felt comfortable asking for help and sharing his thoughts. Since starting his first course last spring, Jason has received continued support from his Success Coach, Danny Schindler.

“Danny made himself really known, to just be open, and to talk to him about anything—work, life, school,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with him talking about all of those different aspects, not just about school, but also ways on how I can succeed in this program and also how I can succeed as a person in biotech.” 

When it comes to his courses, Jason enjoys having classmates from a range of fields within biotech who are willing to share their unique experiences and support one another. 

“We’re all here to help you out,” he said. “Everybody here is really friendly, and they are in different aspects of biotech, which is great in itself—just the diversity and the breadth of this group of students that we have here. You can really network with them and get to know their experience. And I think, in time, it’ll help to shape your experiences as well.”

Other UW Applied Biotechnology students have praised the benefit of having classmates who bring their unique career experiences to group discussions. Instructional designers and media specialists for the program have also received recognition for their innovations in course design. Jason values the program’s dedication to finding new ways to improve the online experience. 

“As a person who loves continuous improvement and a growth mindset, I think that’s so crucial to have,” he said. 

RELATED: An Inside Look at a UW Applied Biotechnology Course: Ethics, Safety, and Regulatory Environments in Biotechnology

Get Degree Guide

Learn more about our 100% online degree and certificate programs.

Jason currently works at Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company based in Sunnyvale, California. As a compliance analyst on the Global Process Governance team, he connects with associates around the world to help them understand the company’s processes and ensure they stay in compliance with the regulatory bodies in the US, Europe, and Asia. Since joining the UW Applied Biotechnology program last year, he’s been able to immediately apply the skills he learned in courses into his work at Cepheid.

Jason wearing a ball cap, sunglasses, and T-shirt as he stands in front of flowers while holding a tote bag. The online master’s degree offers three specialization tracks for students. With hopes to one day work in regulatory affairs, Jason is taking the business management track to complement his career goals. A highlight for Jason was learning about supply chain processes and gaining an introduction to the business side of biotech in ABT 755: Global Operations and Supply Chain Management. He looks forward to developing additional skills in the program and sharing what he’s learned with colleagues.

If you’re interested in enrolling in the UW Applied Biotechnology program as a way to reach your own career aspirations, Jason believes now is the perfect time to enroll.

“This is a great program to sink into biotech, regardless of what experience level you have,” he said. “You’re never too old, you’re never too young to be a part of the biotech community. And you have the support network going into this program with the advisers [and] the Success Coach.”

To learn more about the University of Wisconsin Master of Science in Applied Biotechnology, contact an enrollment adviser by calling 608-800-6762 or emailing

RELATED: ‘It’s Never Too Late’: UW Graduate Student With Music Background Shares Experience in Applied Biotechnology Program

UW Master of Science in Applied Biotechnology is a collaboration of several Universities of Wisconsin universities. Jason is earning his degree through UW-Madison.

Programs: Applied Biotechnology