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Research Scientist - Biotechnology (other than plants)

Research Scientist – Biotechnology Industries (other than Plant Breeding)


What do research scientists in industries do?

Research in industry is generally more applied than is research in academia.  There may be a focus on making a useful and marketable product or in providing a needed service.  In genetics-related fields endeavors range from genotyping animals or humans, particularly human cancers (plants, too, but see Plant Breeding Industry  to developing novel therapies or pharmaceuticals for humans and animals.  Some biotech companies specialize in providing reagents and kits for academic, clinical, and other commercial labs.  Work could be primarily wet lab or computational (e.g. genotyping).

What type of training is required to obtain a position in research with an industry?

Entry level positions, variously termed research associate, technician, or technologist, can be obtained following the Bachelor degree.  In general, promotion to higher level lab supervisory positions will require a graduate degree.  If you get in on the ground level with a startup biotech company there may be more opportunity for promotion without a graduate degree than if you are in a large established company. 

How do I best prepare for a position in research with an industry?

Your undergraduate GPA, while taken into consideration, will not be as important as when applying to graduate or professional programs.  Research at the undergraduate level, starting with on-campus opportunities and progressing to an internship in a company will be the most important factors.  Summer or post-graduate internships with a company in which you are interested, or a similar company, will be invaluable. Try to master as many techniques as possible.  Consider taking MICRO 302L (Microbiology Laboratory) and higher level MICRO labs, CHEM 211 & L (Quantitative & Environmental Analysis) or BBMB 411 (Techniques in Biochemical Research). These can all be used to meet advanced science electives in the Genetics major.  You should also consider taking courses in business such as marketing, management, supply chain management, and accounting.  A General Business minor (15 credits) could be earned. 


Beth Kenkel

Education:  BS, Genetics, ISU, 2010; MS, Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Iowa

Current Position:  Research scientist at Bristol Meyer Squibb, Seattle. 

Beth Kenkel

During my time at Iowa State, the experience that most prepared me for my career was undergraduate research. Working in the lab taught me not just how to use a pipette, but also how to think like a scientist. I still use these skills today in my current position at Bristol Meyer Squibb where I'm helping develop new cellular therapies for cancer.

Beth also mentions she has temporarily returned to a previous position in virology at the University of Washington to work on COVID-19 testing during the pandemic.