Job Title: Biochemist
Type of Company: I work for a biotechnology company that makes treatments for diseases. We start with basic research and develop a drug.
Education: BA, Biochemistry, Cornell University Ph.D., Biochemistry, Duke University
Previous Experience: I started at a biotechnology company right after completing my doctorate, doing bench-top research as a staff scientist. I was promoted to scientist and senior scientist in the same company, doing development work. I was then promoted to manager, associate director and now director, as my management duties increased. After 5-6 years I was no longer working at a bench, but mostly managing people and writing reports.
Job Tasks: In my current position I manage a team of scientists. My group develops the scientific tests that are used to check the safety and efficacy of drugs before the government will allow these drugs to be sold. I meet with people in my group to let them know what they need to work on, then advise them on how best to do it. Together we review their results and discuss what to do next. At the end of a project, they write reports about what they did. I correct these reports for many things, including correct English, but also to make sure they are clear and contain all of the information required by the government. I also go to meetings with people from different departments in my company who are all working together on the same drug or program. I present what we are doing and listen to what others are working on. In these meetings I find out what the next steps are in each program and when the deadlines are. I take this information back to my group. There is also a lot of technical report writing in my job for various government agencies.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job for me is knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of patients who would have no treatments otherwise. Many of these people would die quickly without the drugs we make. I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of my job and working with very talented people. The worst part of my job (other than the long commute) is the demanding deadlines (for results and for reports).
1. I wish I had taken statistics in college. It wasn't required to, so I never took it. I had to learn it for my job, but still feel that I have a lot to learn.
2. Although you can do research or development in a biotech company with only an undergraduate degree, the higher your graduate degree (Master's or Ph.D.), the higher you can climb. Doors open much more easily for those who have Ph.D.'s. I would recommend getting a doctorate, but only if you are very excited about research. Otherwise the long and arduous route to getting one will not be worthwhile. 3. Try to work in a lab in college to see if you like the work enough before you commit to many additional years of education.
Additional Thoughts: To succeed in this field you have to be focused and organized, curious, and a little stubborn!
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