Bogdan Vernescu, professor and head of the Mathematical Sciences Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been elected to a second one-year team as president of the National Professional Science Master's Association (NPSMA), a collaborative of program directors, faculty members, administrators, alumni, and students from the more than 245 professional science master's (PSM) programs offered by 115 U.S. colleges and universities.
Founded in 2007 with a $500,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the association promotes and supports PSM degree programs. It also engages businesses, industries, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and professional associations in the development of PSM programs and the establishment of internships and job placements for students and graduates. Vernescu was the principal investigator for the Sloan Foundation grant and served as the inaugural president of NPSMA, which is headquartered at WPI.
"It is an honor to once again lead the NPSMA, which has played a central role over the past four years in expanding awareness for the value of the professional science master's in today's knowledge-driven economy and in growing the number of PSM programs from about 100 to nearly 250 today," Vernescu said. "There is still much to be done, and I look forward to working this year to help build new collaborations with national educational and industry organizations, to increase corporate involvement in this organization, and to engage even more colleges and universities in launching PSMs."
Having workforce needs as a starting point, professional science master’s degrees are designed for students in the sciences who plan to work in professional positions in industry, rather than in academia. The programs, which combine rigorous multidisciplinary graduate study in science or mathematics with the development of business skills (including written and verbal communication, leadership, and team building), prepare students for science and technology careers in business, government, and nonprofit organizations.
The programs are typically developed in close collaboration with industry, which sees the PSM degree as an important way to increase America’s competiveness in the global marketplace. The first programs were established in 1997 with support from the Sloan Foundation. (WPI's PSM programs in financial and industrial mathematics were launched in 2000.)
The National Research Council, in a 2008 report titled “Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World,” concluded that the master’s trained segment of the science workforce is critical to America’s continued innovation and competitive success, and strongly endorsed programs, including PSMs, that are interdisciplinary, emphasize communication and problem solving, and prepare students to innovate, adapt to change, and lead. The report also endorsed the efforts of the NPSMA to work with leaders in business and academia to promote and expand PSM programs nationwide.