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Career Story: Cancer Research Associate

Cancer Research Associate

Job Title: Research Associate

Education: BS in Biochemistry, Temple University

Previous Experience: I worked as a clerk, receptionist and office manager while attending college and while looking for my current job.

Job Tasks: I now work in a very basic biological laboratory conducting experiments to collect data in support of the hypothesis in question. Our research focuses on determining the effects of potential anticancer chemicals on cancerous cells and how they are metabolized by specific drug-metabolizing enzymes found in the human body.

On a typical day I prepare the necessary solutions, and order the needed chemicals to carry out an experiment, which I usually plan in advance. And then I follow that protocol step-by-step to get the desired data. Administrative tasks like filing packing slips, or unpacking packages do not take up a lot of my time. My time is most spend doing literature research to see what other labs have reported and what methods did they use to arrive at their conclusions. I also spend time troubleshooting experiments, which is often trial and error. Once the data is collected, it is time for analysis and statistics to determine if it is significant. This usually involves using certain software to do nonlinear regression to determine the kinetics or rate of a reaction.

Ongoing, I have been maintaining a line of cancer cells from the colon. This involves aseptic handling of the cells in a sterile environment and keeping them in an incubator that has a certain percentage of carbon dioxide. Sometimes I work with radioactive isotopes that are used in ligand-binding studies. And this requires careful handling and disposal, very strict regulations have to be met to prevent any accidental spills.

Then once I have analyzed all the data, it is time to write-up a manuscript to submit to a journal for peer review and hopefully if accepted, it will be published for the whole world to read.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: 1. Best part of the job is the flexible schedule, that allows me to come and go as needed, since my work depends on the experiment, which can vary in length of time to carry out.

The worst part is my salary is grant funded and so does not pay well.

Job Tips:
1. You must love science to do research, which can be slow at getting results or the results can be confounding in itself.

2. You must have patience.

3. Do not be discouraged if the results are not what you thought it would be.

4. READ scientific journals often to keep current.

Additional Thoughts: You should volunteer to do research, and see what it is like before considering this job.

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