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Career Story: Research Assistant

Research Assistant

Job Title: Research Assistant II

Type of Company: I work at a children's hospital in a research lab studying diabetes and beta-cells.

Education: MS in Biology, Moscow State University (MSU), Russia

Previous Experience: Before studying in the University (MSU) I was working as a technician in the Plant Virology lab in MSU; after graduation I was working in two different biologic labs in Moscow, Russia (one was studying the regulation of transcription, and the other - liver and pancreatic cancer). I met my current boss at the science conference on pancreatic beta-cells in Spain .

Job Tasks: I have my own project in the lab. I'm working here for about 18 months. In the beginning I was performing a high-throughput screening to find chemical compounds that would increase the level of RNA for the protein which is very important for insulin signaling in human beta-cells (responsible for maintaining insulin and glucose levels in the body).

After several chemical libraries were screened I was analyzing the data together with my boss (this is the tricky part of the experiment). After the data processing we have found about 100 compounds that increase the target RNA level (the screening started with several thousands of them). After that I was conducting the internet search to find the toxicity data for those compounds - after this search I've chosen 11 that I'm going to check in mouse models.

The idea is that those compounds should increase the amount of beta-cells in the pancreas thus helping to treat Diabetes. So now I'm at the stage of mouse experiments and analyzing data from it - the pilot experiment seems to have promising results.

I don't have a typical day on the job - as what I do depends on what stage of experiment I perform at this precise moment. I have to work with mice, cell cultures, different computer programs, perform routine lab experiments (for protein, RNA, DNA analysis), search the internet and literature, make microscopic slides, receive approval for animal experiments and so on - a variety of things.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of this job is that I have an independent project that can be challenging and interesting. I have a nice lab in which most people are ready to help each other and teach you some technique if you need it.

The worst part of it is when something doesn't work in your experiment it usually takes a long time and effort to make it better. The experiments can take a long time - so in case of a mistake it's difficult. And the work in science lab gives you much less money when doing the same thing in the biotech company - so when I'll have a good experience and publications, I will think about going to biotech.

Job Tips: For this particular position, you should know biology, be responsible, be ready to conduct independent actions and research, be nice and helpful for your co-workers (as they can help you when you need it), you should understand your boss even if he or she is a bit strange (as many science people are), be ready to learn new things in a short time (as nobody will show you anything more than two times and sometimes once) and be optimistic (as it helps when you have problems with the experiment)

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