Career Story: Analytical Chemist For A Biotech Start-Up

Analytical Chemist For A Biotech Start-Up

Job Title: Analytical Chemist

Type of Company: My company is a small start-up company making drugs that use nanoparticles to fight diseases.

Education: BS, Biology Education, Millersville University (Millersville, PA)

Previous Experience: I worked as an analytical chemist and lab manager for large pharmaceutical company. Before that I was an analytical chemist at a contract research organization and at two different drug companies.

Job Tasks: My company has a patented technology to make nanoparticles - particles so small they're invisible to the naked eye - out of polymer which can then deliver various types of therapeutic drugs to the body. The company is often described as being in the biotechnology sector, but its work is closely related to traditional drug company pursuits.

The company has tried hundreds of different formulations of nanoparticles, varying all aspects of the process. We've changed ingredients, added different active ingredients and changed the constituents of the nanoparticles completely. My job - as a scientist in the Analytical Development group - is to determine what's in the particles, how much is in the particles, how big the particles are and any other aspects of their creation that will be useful in improving our formulations.

I typically receive samples of nanoparticles from the process engineers, and I use such laboratory equipment as liquid chromatographs, spectrophotometers and other light scattering detectors to determine the samples' characteristics. I have to be precise and accurate in my work, and I have to be able to explain in detail how I did what I did and what my results were. I accomplish these things by writing what I do in my lab notebook.

Math, writing, and a good understanding of the scientific method are key to me accomplishing my tasks.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the technology I work with, which is very interesting and combines aspects of polymer chemistry, peptide chemistry, immunology, physics and organic chemistry. I learn a lot every day, and my tasks change week to week. The worst part of my job is that, unfortunately, many scientists have difficulty in dealing well with other people. I work with many people with few social skills, and this makes my job somewhat boring.

Job Tips: My advice would be to go as far with your schooling as you can. If you truly enjoy science, your studies will pay off, both financially and in terms of the depth of work that you do. So get a Ph.D. or a masters. I don't have either, and I think this has hurt my career some.

I would also try to work in as many different kinds of jobs within the biotech/pharma realm as you can. Try to work at a company with drugs on the market, and at some whose products are only in the developmental stages.

Finally, I would make sure to have an active life outside the lab. Pursue other interests and spend time outside the world of science. Many scientists shelter themselves from other aspects of life by putting all their focus into their lab work. This actually makes them worse scientists than they otherwise would be, as the "big picture" of things around them can be lost.

Additional Thoughts: Only get into science if you truly like science. If you don't, it can be a frustrating career.

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