Masters in The Netherlands (III)

Masters in The Netherlands is our section on education in The Netherlands, focusing on master’s studies. Here we will explore, through interviews with current and former students, the system of postgraduate studies in the Netherlands, whose organization and content are very different from those in Spain. The interviews are conducted by the Head of Dissemination and Events of our association, Miriam Guillén Navarro, who is herself an alumnus of one of these Masters and, therefore, well aware of the wide range of postgraduate training available in this country.

Today we are interviewing Pablo Tapia Martín, a biotechnologist from Madrid who has completed a master’s degree at the University of Utrecht that is unique in Europe. This master combines his two passions: the sciences and the business worlds and gives him a very interesting professional profile.

Name: Pablo Tapia Martín
Home city: Madrid
Previous studies: Biotechnology at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Current study: Master of Science and Business Management at Utrecht University

Question: Why did you decide to study this particular master’s degree? Why in the Netherlands?

Answer: During my studies in Biotechnology I became interested in the business and entrepreneurship part. I did a second 5-month technology transfer internship at the National Centre for Biotechnology and decided to focus my later studies on that area. I chose this particular program because it combines a year of science (9 months in the laboratory combined with a couple of science subjects) with a year of business (subjects and internships, in order to achieve a double profile.

I chose The Netherlands because after my Erasmus experience, I discovered that being abroad brings you a lot both on a personal and professional level, so I felt like going abroad again. The Netherlands was a good choice for several factors: the ease of speaking English, good reputation and good masters, including this one which was just what I was looking for.

Q: Is this type of master’s degree offered in Spain?

A: This type of dual master’s degree is not offered in Spain at the moment. There are some similar ones in the Netherlands, but they are quite unique.

Q: How is the master’s degree structured?

A: The master’s degree is structured in two blocks. The first year is dedicated to the scientific part: 1 or 2 science subjects (5 ECTS) and 9 months of laboratory practice (51 ECTS) and the second year is completely dedicated to the business part (half subjects and half practice). The subjects cover pretty much all fields such as finance, economy, marketing, supply chain, entrepreneurship, etc.

Q: How are the internships in this master’s program?

A: The first year is a laboratory internship and the second year is a company internship.

Q: Could you tell us about your internship experience in a laboratory in The Netherlands? How would you compare it with the laboratory where you did your internship in Spain?

A: Laboratory internships are arranged by the student and can be in any type of scientific area, it is totally free. In fact, my colleagues had different scientific backgrounds. In my case, as I was interested in the subject of stem cells I did it at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht in the laboratory of Hans Clevers. This laboratory was a pioneer in the development and culture of organoids. My experience in this laboratory was very good. The overall laboratory environment was demanding and competitive, with very good people so I learnt a lot. I had a good mentor and a good project that resulted in a publication in Cell.

The experience in the lab in Spain was also very good but totally different. In part because of the short duration of only 5 months but also regarding resources. In Hans Clevers’ lab the resources are almost unlimited, but it is also exceptional here in The Netherlands.

Q: And how was your experience working in a company in The Netherlands?

A: I did my internship at Sanofi, a French multinational that has several lines of business. I worked at Sanofi-Genzyme which is the most biotechnology-related part, which has five franchises: immunology, rare diseases, oncology, multiple sclerosis and rare blood diseases. Sanofi-Genzyme’s European headquarters is in Amsterdam, where I worked for 6 months in the European sales team for Dupixent, which is a drug with indications in severe atopic dermatitis and severe asthma. I have loved the experience, it has been intense, but I have learnt a lot.

Q: How was the day-to-day life at your position? Did you do a master’s thesis?

A: In the beginning it consisted of many meetings and reading internal documents to better understand the product, the market, our launch strategy, etc. The first few months were basically learning and then little by little I was taking on responsibilities. My main project was the forecast for Dupixent in Europe, that is, to analyze the sales and patient forecasts for Dupixent asthma in each country. Once we analyzed data and presented the graphs, we could renegotiate their numbers. Finally, I made my company thesis which consisted in analyzing the success factors for introducing Dupixent asthma in Europe. To do this, I conducted interviews in all European countries, both marketing and medical affairs representatives, surveys of the European team and application of relevant literature. The objective was to give some recommendations to improve certain aspects to be considered for the introduction of the drug in Europe.

Q: What type of student would you recommend this Master’s degree to?

A: I would strongly recommend this master’s degree to those who like science but rather prefer to apply it even in a business environment. This master’s degree is perfect for that. You must take into account that you also have to like research, because there is a year of this. It would also be a suitable master’s degree if you are hesitating between research and business because being a Master of Science allows you to do a PhD later on, which keeps this option open.

I would also recommend it to proactive people because you have to look for internships yourself and it’s not that easy, especially in business, because in many places it’s a requirement to speak Dutch. This is a point to keep in mind, although you can always do the internship in another country.

Q: Would you say that this master’s degree is suitable for someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?

The master’s degree has a subject on entrepreneurship, in which a team project is developed to create your own company. At the end it is presented in front of a jury in the incubator of Utrecht University. In The Netherlands, this kind of thing is very much encouraged. At Utrecht University there are many options if you want to start a business, it is connected to the Utrecht Science Park and UtrechtInc which is a start-ups incubator where you can get help and there are several courses you can take as an extra-curricular. They give you a lot of tools to start-up. Of course, if someone has a very specific idea, you don’t even need to do the master’s degree, you can go to UtrechtInc and they can help you directly.

Q: What has the master’s degree brought you personally and professionally? How do you think it can make a difference in your career?

A: On a career level I believe or hope that it will make a difference. After doing the master, I do have the double profile I was looking for and it allows me to apply for a job in marketing and strategy within the pharmaceutical industry, having 6 months of experience as an intern and already start working directly in what I like. The good reputation of Utrecht University also helps and the fact that I had an international education. Sometimes studying in Spain and then trying to find a job outside of Spain can be difficult when it comes to demonstrating that you can operate in an international environment. However, if you have already been studying and working abroad, it is much easier.

On a personal level, it has been an intense and demanding master’s degree. You learn to work hard under pressure, to not give up and it also helps you to know yourself. I think it has given me a lot in both ways.

Q: What are your plans now, to continue your training or to start in the job market? Are you considering the possibility of returning to Spain?

My short/medium term plan is to stay in The Netherlands because on a professional level I think the working conditions are better. I think that the fact that you have a master’s degree is better appreciated in The Netherlands than in Spain, as well as the responsibilities that you are given at work. On a personal level I am already adapted to the country, with a partner and friends and that also makes me want to stay here.

I am looking for a job in the area of marketing and strategy in pharma/Biotech/life sciences consultancy. It’s complicated because I’m looking for something very specific and there is also the Dutch language barrier, since in many places they ask for it as it is common to talk to doctors, read reports, etc. This is a difference to the research part, where the most spoken language is English.



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