In Their Own Words: For Jian Bumatay ’21, PSM ’24, Saint Mary’s New Master’s in Biotechnology was ‘A Leap of Faith.’ It’s Already Paying Off.

The child of two nurses, Bumatay long thought med school was his future. Through SMC’s program, he realized, biotechnology was another way to make a difference. Today, he works at Genentech.

by Hayden Royster, Staff Writer | July 1, 2024

In Their Own Words is a series in which we introduce you to the Gaels you need to meet—students, alums, faculty, and staff—and let them tell their stories, in their own words.

Meet Jian Bumatay ’21, PSM ’24: the son of Filipino immigrants, a resident of nearby Benicia, and a recent graduate of the first cohort of Saint Mary’s new two-year Professional Science Master’s in Biotechnology. Bumatay also holds a BS in Biology from SMC. In December 2023, he secured a role as a Quality Control Analyst for Genentech, one of the world’s leading biotech companies. 


The Biotech experience

Saint Mary’s program is unique because it requires students to secure a full-time industry job in addition to completing master's coursework. So we’re all very busy, and looking for real-world applications. Our professors get that. They care about us, and are so willing to meet our needs. Every class, they ask us, “How are you all doing? What do you need help with? What should we focus on more?”

Jian Bumatay posing outside of Brousseau Hall
Home base: Bumatay standing outside Brousseau Hall, where he spent much of his past two years as part of the first cohort of Saint Mary's PSM in Biotechnology / Photo by Francis Tatem

They care about our interests, too. If there’s a topic we’re curious about, professors incorporate that into their lectures, and soon, we’re applying those things in the lab. We’ve used gene-editing technology like CRISPR, which was exciting. We've learned analytical techniques used in the industry right now, methods so new they’re not even being taught in other universities yet.

I think that's what I love most about this program: They really do tailor the classes to us.

The competitive edge

Alongside our classwork, the Biotech faculty prepared us to be competitive applicants. Throughout the program, they consistently reminded us to update our resumes. “You just learned how to do histone methylation; put it on your resume!” they’d say. 

As a result, I’ve received questions during interviews: How do you know that? Could you explain this? Sometimes, it felt like interviewers didn’t believe I knew all this stuff! But I did. Thanks to my professors, I was able to explain myself and, eventually, secure my current role.

Putting his degrees to use

Growing up, I thought being a doctor or nurse was the only way I could help people. But Saint Mary’s has shown me how, with biotechnology, I can still make a difference in the lives of others. 

As for the future, I plan to go into research and eventually pursue a PhD. First, though, I’d love to find a role at a startup dealing with oncology. There’s a huge history of cancer in my family, which is where my motivation comes from. As a scientist, too, the mechanics of cancer are just so fascinating. 

Manila-born and Moraga-bound

When I was seven, my parents moved my sister and me from Manila—where I was born—to take jobs at hospitals in the UK and then the US. They worked hard to give us the best neighborhoods, the best school districts, the best opportunities. 

It’s interesting looking back, having just completed my master's, because I’ll be honest: I wasn't very motivated in high school. I was smart; I just had a hard time caring about classwork. 

When it came to applying to colleges, my sister pushed me to apply to Saint Mary’s. “It will be a good space for you,” she said. I never wanted to go to a big school; big crowds can overwhelm me. So when I applied to SMC, and they sent me my offer letter, I accepted right away. 

 "From a technical standpoint, your skillset will expand. Your resume will stand out... On a personal level, too, we learned more than science in our courses. We learned how to navigate the workplace, be a good leader, and be an all-around decent human being."

A well-rounded education

College is about more than a degree, I’ll say that. At first, I had a very utilitarian mindset: go, get my Biology degree, then on to medical school. Back then, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Part of my reasoning was financial, but it was mainly about helping other people. That’s something my parents always modeled and instilled in me. 

At Saint Mary’s, I received a solid scientific education, but I also got an education in values. I became more caring toward myself, my family, and those around me. I know I’m more grounded than I was before college.

Jian Bumatay posing in a hallway
Ultimately, the program helped Bumatay become a "competitive applicant," he says. Since December 2023, he has worked as a Quality Control Analyst at Genentech. / Photo by Francis Tatem

The road to the PSM

I graduated with my BS in May 2021 and got a lab tech position the following year. That job turned out to be a bad fit, which was discouraging. Around then, I saw an ad on LinkedIn: Apply for our new PSM in Biotechnology program at Saint Mary's College of California! I instantly messaged James Pesavento, a Biology professor of mine who was part of the new program. He got back right away. “You should go!” he said.

I took a leap of faith, and it definitely paid off.

Advice for future Biotech students?

Do it. If you’re interested in lab work and passionate about helping others, then do it. From a technical standpoint, your skillset will expand. Your résumé will stand out. People will call you from companies you never expected to call you back. Like me: I have a job at Genentech! 

On a personal level, too, we learned more than science in our courses. We learned how to navigate the workplace, be a good leader, and be an all-around decent human being. I have connections from this program that will last a lifetime. 

Today, I can’t imagine my life without Saint Mary’s. The friendships, the things I've learned, the networking—I don’t think I’d be who I am today if I went somewhere else.