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Careers in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Careers in Biotechnology
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Job Locations
Where are biochemistry and molecular biology jobs found? In general, graduates with a scientific degree will work for a private company, corporation, or educational facility. Many job positions for major biotechnology corporations are staffed through temp agencies, to ensure a “good fit” before a company makes the final decision to hire a candidate. Finding an internship with a biotech company is always a good plan for current college students or recent graduates: a company may be more willing to hire a familiar intern than an unknown candidate. The following locations are places where biochemistry graduates find positions:
Biotechnology Corporations: Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical companies are generally major corporations involved in the development of devices and drugs that have direct contact with a patient. Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the vast majority of recent drug discoveries: those with scientific degrees may obtain positions in manufacturing, developing, or monitoring the quality of the laboratories. Eli Lilly, Bayer, and Pfizer are all pharmaceutical companies with positions for individuals with biology degrees.
Biotechnology Corporations: In Vitro Diagnostics
In-vitro diagnostics (IVD) involves the development and production of testing kits for various infectious diseases, genetic conditions, and other conditions. Most IVD laboratories are run by major corporations and produce tests for blood clotting disorders, drug of abuse analysis kits, and southern blot for various infectious diseases. The range of products produced by IVD companies is extremely diverse, and these companies often include many different types of positions for those with biology degrees. An example of an In Vitro Diagnostic company would be bioMerieux, which produces tests to detect infectious pathogens.
Graduates with biology degrees, including biochemistry or molecular biology degrees, may obtain a position in agribusiness. Agribusiness is dedicated to the growth, processing, and distribution of food. John Deere, Ocean Spray, and Monsanto are famous names in Agribusiness.
Biochemistry Jobs in the Military
Research facilities may be part of a private enterprise or part of an educational facility. Some non-profit groups operate research facilities. In general, the lead positions for research teams require an advanced degree: research associates and technicians require a bachelor’s degree. One example of a research facility would be Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, which develops new cancer treatments.
Another opportunity for research is etho-biochemistry. Researchers in this field primarily work through educational institutions and discover the medicinal effects of native plants. In one example, the use of neem leaves as rabbit feed in Nigeria was studied and found to lower serum glucose in rabbits. The neem also caused slow growth and reduced nutrient uptake, proving that this native plant is not a good alternative food source for rabbits in Nigeria. The cost of conventional rabbit feed is high, so etho-biochemists perform studies on native plants to determine if an acceptable alternative food source can be identified. In this case, neem leaf was not an acceptable food source, as demonstrated by biochemical studies on the rabbits.
Some people who obtain advanced degrees may obtain a teaching position at a university. Often, a teaching position is a required component of university-led research. A master’s degree is the minimum level for teaching at most community colleges, and a Ph.D. is required for teaching at a university.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard all employ biochemists and molecular biologists. Career options range from biochemical research to forensic toxicology - many biochemists are employed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), for example.
Forensics requires an education in biochemistry: while some universities offer course work and degrees specific to forensics, most people who work in a forensics lab have a degree in biochemistry. Careers in this field range from working as a medical examiner to a crime scene investigator.
Biotechnology: A Career Option for Science Majors
Job titles for Biochemistry/Molecular Biology: Bachelor’s Degree Level
Biologist: This position requires work in the lab with high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), cell culture, and mass spectrometry. Knowledge of good manufacturing practices (GMP) and basic laboratory techniques is required.
Laboratory Assistant: A laboratory assistant working for a biotechnology corporation would generally work in a lab, running protein samples on gels, performing HPLC chromatography, formulating buffers, and performing basic laboratory procedures (preparing work surfaces, cleaning, and maintenance). This position requires a bachelor’s degree.
Research Associate: The research associate position works under a research scientist (with an advanced degree), performing written research protocols and recording data. The research associate must have knowledge of basic laboratory techniques, have the ability to record data in Microsoft Excel, and have good written communication skills.
QC Associate: A Quality Control associate would perform product testing, review and revise standard operating procedures, perform audits, and ensure cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) in the Q.C. laboratory. This position would require a bachelor’s degree.
Quality Control: A Career Option for Science Majors
General Career Categories
Working in the production or formulations department will involve compounding buffers, manufacturing reagents, following written formulation protocols, and performing all tasks according to the FDA's "current good manufacturing practices" (cGMP) guidelines. Working in a biotech company may include working with toxic or hazardous chemicals and biological materials. In addition, you may be required to work with animal products or organs. Work may take place in an open laboratory, under a fume hood, or in a clean room. Employees may be required to wear a respirator, clean room "bunny suit," goggles, and other safety equipment. The environment may involve temperature controls, including work in cold rooms (kept at 2-8°C).
Product Development/Research and Development
With an advanced degree (Ph.D.), it is possible to head up a product development or R&D department. Those with bachelor's degrees will often be termed "research associates" and will be responsible for following the experimental design created by the Research Scientist. As an associate, the employee will be responsible for performing the experiments, recording data, and writing reports. Accuracy, good laboratory technique, and the ability to use Excel are often required for a research associate position.
Quality Control technicians test products to ensure they meet release criteria for the company. Stability testing, performance testing, and visual inspection may be required. Q.C. technicians may also participate in audits, monitor labs for appropriate cGMP compliance, and write/revise standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Quality Assurance employees write and revise SOPs, ensure the facility maintains adherance to the FDA's cGMP requirements, control documents, and release product for sale after review. The QA department conducts audits and is sometimes under the auspices of a Regulatory Affairs department.
Employees in the Regulatory Affairs office deal with all regulations pertaining to governmental offices, such as the FDA, European Standard (CE marking) and any other regulations from countries where the company's products are sold. Clinical trial submissions are handled through the Regulatory Affairs office.
Careers in Biotechnology
Job titles for Biochemistry/Molecular Biology: Advanced Degree Level
Principal Research Scientist: This position requires a Ph.D. in any biological science, with strong skills in molecular biology and biochemistry laboratory techniques. As a principal research scientist, the candidate would devise and implement experiments, work with various groups within the organization, have the ability to lead several projects at the same time, and direct a team to secure results in a timely manner. This type of position may involve drug discovery, the development of novel diagnostic platforms, or therapies for pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporations.
Sr. Information Research Scientist: This position requires an advanced degree (Master’s Degree or Ph.D.) in biochemistry or molecular biology. An information research scientist reviews patents for a legal department. This position requires in-depth knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology terms and techniques, analysis of the patent in question and of current scientific techniques, the preparation of reports, and the ability to train and mentor other research scientists.
Major Biotechnology Career Locations
Research Triangle in North Carolina is a major biotechnology career location. Research Triangle is located in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill.
San Diego has a high density of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This area is also known as "Biotech Beach."
Boston, Massachusetts is another biotech hot-spot. This geographical area goes by the colloquial name "Genetown" in biotech circles.
Also known as "Biotech Bay," San Francisco has many biotechnology companies. Genentech calls the Bay Area home.
The nation's capital has many biotechnology firms to its credit - this area of the country is known as "BioCapital"
The area surrounding NY, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania is known as "Pharm Country" for a high density of biotech firms.
The Midwest has its own biotechnology hotbed: Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Kansas all support growing biotechnology companies.