About the Program

Program Philosophy

On the surface, bioscience and business may seem like unrelated fields. But if the full benefits of science are to be realized, discoveries made at the laboratory bench must be taken to market and made accessible to society at large—a process demanding great skill both scientifically and managerially. Given the pace of recent advances in bioscience and biotechnology, never before has the need been so great for decision makers who can understand and advance scientific innovations as well as manage and promote them. It is with this in mind that the University of Pennsylvania launched the Vagelos Life Sciences & Management (LSM) program.

Program Design

LSM is an undergraduate dual-degree program administered jointly between Penn's College of Arts & Sciences and the Wharton School. Each year, the program enrolls approximately 24 exceptional students and offers them the opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary curriculum combining bioscience and business, leading to the completion of two degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in a life science major, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Economics. To ensure that every student learns how to apply their knowledge, the program provides the means for students to find two required, paid internships after the sophomore and junior years, one centered in scientific research, the other in business or public policy. Completion of the LSM program provides an ideal starting point for students intent on careers in the life sciences sector, preparing them for the advanced training we anticipate they will later go on to pursue through MD, PhD, MBA, JD, and/or other graduate programs. LSM’s focus is largely on health care, but the skills learned in the program would also apply to work in the environmental or agricultural sectors as well as in biomedicine. LSM provides excellent preparation for students interested in research and development; public policy; or the financial and strategic management of, or investment in, life science organizations.

Our Inspiration & Aspiration

The LSM program aims to foster creativity, entrepreneurialism, insight, and principled decision-making. The idea for starting LSM came from Dr. Roy Vagelos, an alumnus of Penn who is perhaps best known not only for his fundamental contributions to the life sciences as a biochemist but also for his visionary work as a scientific and corporate leader at Merck. As Dr. Vagelos recognized, students interested in careers in healthcare, science, or scientific management need to be able to understand both the foundations of science and its future prospects, as well as engage in strategic marketing, product development, organizational leadership, and policy advocacy. These are the types of skills that the LSM program is designed to help students capture and develop.


Why LSM is at Penn

The wealth of resources available to undergraduates in the fields of life sciences, business, and policy at the University of Pennsylvania make it ideally suited to the LSM program. In addition to gaining a first-rate undergraduate education in business through the Wharton School, and in the life sciences through the College of Arts and Sciences, students can take full advantage of the fact that all of the schools at Penn, as well as a variety of research institutes, are on one campus. In addition to the Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biological Basis of Behavior departments and programs, and The Wharton School which features an unusually large and distinguished Health Care Management department, all of the health professions schools (for instance the Perelman School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, School of Nursing, and School of Veterinary Medicine) are on the one site.  Research institutes on campus include the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and the Wistar Institute, a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center in basic life sciences research. The presence of the adjacent University of Pennsylvania Health System, including the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia among various other hospitals and centers, adds to the opportunities for scientific and health policy research. The active interest of distinguished Penn alumni and other professionals working at the intersection of life sciences and management also enriches the experience of students interested in both fields.

Key Takeaways from LSM

When asked what were the most important things they gained from their LSM education, the consensus among the program’s alumni was that there were three in particular that have proven most enabling in their many and varied careers:

  • Direct exposure to and connection with many professional sectors associated with the life sciences and management from the beginning to the end of the program. 
  • Experience gained from practical, applied work not only through the internships, but also through the LSM Proseminar (LSMP 1210) and the LSM Capstone (LSMP 4210) courses. 
  • The acquisition and refinement of effective written and spoken communication skills, both with teammates and with a variety of advanced academic and professional audiences, evident as the facility to write and speak the languages of both bioscience and business.