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The Certificate in Law: an Introduction to a Post-PhD Career in Law

November 27, 2018

As non-academic careers for biomedical scientists gain in popularity, certificate programs offer exciting opportunities to acquire academic and practical experience in diverse fields of study. One such program is the Certificate in Law. A subset of the Master in Law program offered by the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the certificate program allows students to expand their understanding of legal concepts and practices. Students receive their certification after successful completion of four courses at Penn Law, including the required foundational course “Introduction to U.S. Law and Legal Methods (LAWM 511).” At no extra cost to CAMB students, these courses explore fundamental concepts within the legal field and provide a solid framework upon which students can begin to build their legal prowess.


Having this legal framework can prove beneficial for scientists. Natalie Dury Green, the Assistant Director of the Master in Law program, explains “even as a BGS student, most [scientists] will interact with the legal system of the [United States]…so it’s important to learn the law affecting your field.”


Through legal coursework and expert-led discussions, participants in the program develop skillsets necessary to analyze the legal documents that they will inevitably encounter in their own research. Whether writing a grant or obtaining Institutional Review Board permissions to carry out a clinical trial, acquiring basic legal language is undoubtedly beneficial.


Open to any graduate student at Penn, the Certificate in Law program also provides a diverse learning environment that imparts translatable professional skills to its students. From nursing students to Wharton MBAs, all are welcome to enroll. The certificate program therefore promotes discussions not only with legal experts, but also with fellow Penn citizens who bring their own unique professional experiences to the classroom. By leaving the lab bench and breaking out of the science “bubble”, BGS students are exposed to new ways of presenting, writing, and problem-solving; in doing so, students may develop new soft skills and learn creative solutions to challenges faced in the lab.


Echoing this sentiment, Natalie Dury Green notes that within Penn Law, “differing viewpoints are supported in the classroom, and through conversation comes understanding.”She explains that the program’s diverse student population allows certificate students to “learn from hearing the perspective that another student may have based on their professional career.” This engaging and stimulating environment therefore instills not only a basic understanding of legal concepts, but also encourages diverse thinking that may help research in the lab.


While the Certificate in Law program is academically and professionally beneficial, it can often be difficult to divert attention away from research commitments. To address this issue, the program has developed a structure that is accommodating and accessible for its students. Courses may be completed at any time during a student’s graduate degree, allowing for flexible scheduling of certificate classes around preliminary exams or grant applications. Furthermore, classes can be tailored towards a student’s individual interests, thereby allowing program participants to gain the most from the required coursework. A plethora of healthcare related courses, such as “Healthcare Fraud and Abuse” or “Pharmaceutical Regulation and Enforcement,” might be especially enticing to CAMB students. Importantly, courses offered in the Master in Law curriculum are designed specifically for non-law students. This makes the coursework more accessible for those who do not have a legal background, thus reducing any barriers for students that may feel out of place or intimidated by joining a law class.


Initially founded in 2005, the Certificate in Law has just recently been made available to BGS students. Since an information session held this past April, five new BGS students have enrolled in the certificate program, demonstrating the growing excitement within BGS towards this new opportunity. For those students looking to join these program participants and develop their own legal understanding, enroll now in the Certificate in Law!

CAMB students interested in participating in the Certificate in Law program can find more information here


Students may enroll at anytime during their PhD program but students should first complete the BGS Authorization Form and receive permission from their thesis adviser and graduate group chair.


Students may then complete the online application.


Interested students may also schedule a meeting with Natalie Green to discuss program details and design a class schedule suited towards individual interests.




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