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Biomolecular Science program prepares students to achieve academic, career dreams for more than a decade

Kim Chaudoin | 

BMS student conducting research.

From conducting cancer research to learning about the pathology of infectious diseases to exploring computational biology, Lipscomb University’s Master of Science in biomolecular science (BMS) has prepared graduate students for more than a decade to work in some of the most in-demand and impactful fields in clinical and laboratory science today. 

The program prepares students to work in research hospitals and research laboratories in both the public and private arenas. It also gives students who are wanting to continue their education in professional schools a competitive edge. 

“Lipscomb’s program was one of the first of its kind with its approach and the way it prepares students for careers in research or to give them an opportunity to make their academic dreams a reality,” said Bonny Millimaki, director of Lipscomb’s biomolecular science program and associate professor of biology. “Research is becoming more and more important as professional school admission requires more than a competitive grade point average and exam score. Our students gain valuable research experience, build their academic resume, develop marketable skills and are well prepared for their next step.”

BMS program director Bonny Millimaki observes a student in the research lab.

BMS program director Bonny Millimaki observes a student in the research lab.

Launched in fall 2012, the Master of Science in biomolecular science, housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, may be completed in 11 months. The post-baccalaureate, pre-med program emphasizes an understanding of the application of experimental research to medicine. Courses are completed in the lab and in the classroom and primary literature based courses include cancer biology, clinical research, immunology, cellular molecular physiology and stem cell biology among others. Research is conducted in the areas of cancer biology, immunology and infectious disease, the microbiome and parasitology.

The curriculum has an emphasis on molecular biology, including experimental design and laboratory techniques; the application of molecular biology to human disease, specifically infectious diseases and cancer biology and scientific communication. 

Students may choose a concentration in either human disease or laboratory research. The human disease track covers the molecular basis of human disease and is designed for students interested in clinical science and the allied health professions. Students in the laboratory research track participate in biomedical research, which may be used for applications in all medical school categories or in the biotechnology job market. Students in both tracks complete capstone projects. The program accepts three cohorts per academic year.

Three BMS students conducting research.

Program faculty are widely recognized as experts in their respective fields and their research has been recognized through numerous publications in journals such as Nature Metabolism, the Journal of Surgical Research, Immunity, Cell Metabolism, Development, PLoS One and the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Milimaki said in its ten years of existence, the program has enrolled students from across the nation and around the world and has produced more than 240 graduates with a proven track record of success. 

“Ninety-eight percent of our graduates are working in science,” she said. “We are so proud of our graduates and know they are prepared to go into the world to be successful in postgraduate school, in research and in their careers.”

Since its inception, 77% of the program’s pre-med graduates have been accepted to medical school and 90% of those applying to Ph.D. programs have been accepted. Students have been accepted into schools of medicine, doctor of osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, physician assistant studies and physical therapy among others. Graduates entering the workforce upon graduation have pursued careers in clinical research, primary research, pharmaceuticals, medical sales, clinical management, biotechnology, education and nursing. 

Melissa Fritz, of Fairfield, New Jersey, graduated in December from the program and will soon continue her studies in PA school.

“The human disease track was very interesting to me,” explained Fritz. “Learning about the many viral and bacterial diseases that exist fascinates me, especially with my background working as an EMT since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was scary yet interesting seeing how quickly the disease had spread as I would go to several calls a night solely for Covid-19 and then learning about it in class.”

Melissa Fritz

Melissa Fritz

“I enjoyed the smaller class sizes in Lipscomb’s program,” she continued. “Each professor and student I met had an impact on me and helped me change my perspectives. I am so thankful to be a part of the Class of 2022.”

Jared Britt (’10, BMS ’13), studied biology at Lipscomb as an undergraduate, but upon graduation, when he applied for dental school, he was wait-listed. He knew he had the grades and the test scores.

But after earning his master’s in biomolecular science from Lipscomb, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s dental school not only accepted him, they waived his interview process since he had already interviewed once before. Britt credits that institution’s change of heart to his biomolecular master’s degree and his laboratory research during his graduate studies at Lipscomb. 
“Lipscomb’s program prepares you really well to do studies on your own,” he said. “Most people go through undergraduate school and they follow the textbook and follow the lab instructions. In the master’s program, you really had to think outside the box, come prepared, assess a situation and figure out things on your own. The transition to medical school, where you have to do that all the time, is a lot easier if you go through that graduate-level experience first.”

Britt graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2017. Today, he owns two dental practices: Horizon Dental Partners In White House, Tennessee, and Main Street Dental in Portland, Tennessee.

BMS researcher

Becca Noel (BMS ’14), a veterinary hospitalist at MedVet in Nashville, said she had applied to veterinary school “more times than I care to discuss,” and never got in. But after graduating from Lipscomb’s BMS program, she was accepted by four veterinary schools. She graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2018 with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.

“I think taking the extra courses combined with the research experience really set me apart from the other vet school candidates, and demonstrated my determination and dedication to my goal,” she said. “Lipscomb provided me the opportunity to show the vet schools how serious I was about becoming a veterinarian.”

Nashville native Aunshka Collins, graduated in December with her BMS degree in human disease, which she pursued because of her passion for wanting to treat the biomolecular  blueprint and algorithms of the human body that are disrupted by cancer. She will begin the PharmD program at Lipscomb to follow her “love for biomolecular and pharmaceutical sciences.” 

Aunshka Collins

Aunshka Collins

Collins said she chose to attend Lipscomb because of its Christ-centered focus. 

“The foundation of Lipscomb is built on the word of God. Where there is a hedge of protection and guidance is a community I want to be a part of,” explained Collins. “It has been a journey of transformation spirituality, physically, and emotionally. I am forever grateful for what Lipscomb has done for me and my family. The entire BMS department goes out of their way to make an everlasting impact on your life. I thank Dr. Millimaki and Dr. (Jon) Lowrance for believing in me and pushing me to know that I can and will continue to tackle what seems to be impossible. They instilled in me that I’m Possible! I thank the entire BMS faculty and staff for being apart of my journey.” 

Charles Lanman (BMS ’16), drew upon his graduate studies at Lipscomb and his research in genetics and computational biology to launch HealthCodes DNA, a custom health, nutrition, fitness and wellness programs through the exploration of an individual’s DNA, in 2017.

Charles Lanman

Charles Lanman

Lanman said his time at Lipscomb prepared him well to launch HealthCodes DNA. He says it was at Lipscomb that he learned how to interpret scientific journal articles. “That was exactly what I had to do to build this company to know how to develop algorithms based on scientific research,” he says. “So Lipscomb very adequately prepared me for that. The decision to go back to school and to get my master’s degree really set me on the path I’m on now.”

He also credits the support and encouragement of Lipscomb faculty with giving him the courage to pursue this endeavor. 

“It has been a huge blessing to have all of them as professors and to have their support,” admits Lanman. “They’ve been right there cheering me on. It’s just been really helpful and great to have that support system in place. Being a part of the Lipscomb network has been a blessing as well. It's a lifelong thing. Once you're an alumnus, you're there forever and I’m glad to be a part of it. It's like a second family to me.”

Learn more about Lipscomb’s Master of Science in biomolecular science.

— Program photos by Kristi Jones