Job Title: Scientific Systems Analyst
Type of Company: My company discovers, develops, manufactures and distributes medicine.
Education: BS, Chemistry, University of North Carolina-Asheville MS, Biochemistry and Nutrition, North Carolina State University
Previous Experience: I started as a biochemist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill academic laboratory, and have now been at a pharmaceutical discovery company for 18 years, starting as a biochemist and gradually learning and shifting into information technology and software support.
Job Tasks: My key responsibilities and duties are easiest to list: I provide training for, and answer questions about, the use of specialized scientific software for data analysis and management. I work with international teams to develop new software solutions for managing the complex world of drug discovery, where we are sorting through millions of existing molecules for hundreds of diseases to find good starting compounds for developing new medicines. Since our discovery efforts are carried out at many sites internationally, we have to consider how to help coordinate the storage of and access to lots of experimental information, for many different scientists. We have many different software applications to help with this effort, and as scientists employ new technology, we have to update our software. I am often consulted to figure out how to make the most use of what we have and to write up clear requirements that software developers can use to create new software. I also customize some software myself to increase the range of calculations that can be done. Weekly, I help with routine tasks to keep our databases clear of unneeded or incorrect information. I answer phone calls from scientists when the software does not perform as expected. This usually involves troubleshooting our fairly complex process to see where a breakdown has occurred. These problems are usually fairly easy to correct, but sometimes take quite an investigation, which can also be fun.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of this job is the fun of working with people to solve and correct mysterious problems. I like the international aspect of working with folks across the world. Writing up the results is not as much fun for me. I also get frustrated by how hard it can sometimes be to find the right person to help me find answers in our really big company.
Job Tips: It is good to take courses that make you think about the scientific process, not just memorize facts. In my area that requires both scientific understanding and information technology training, it is easier to take a trained scientist and teach him about computers and software than vice versa.
Take lots of hands-on laboratory classes.
Additional Thoughts: I had no idea that I' end up in this job when I started. I followed my changing interests and took advantage of opportunities to learn new areas as I worked.
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