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Research Scientist - Clinical

Research Scientist – Clinical


What do clinical research scientists do?

Research involving patients conducted at an academic hospital or other health care institution is termed clinical research.  Teams might conduct clinical trials on a new treatment, including safety and efficacy of a pharmaceutical agent or vaccine, or assess outcomes of differing types of therapeutic regimens. They could also explore the underlying cause(s) of a disease, including genetic and environmental factors.  Principal Investigators (PI’s) are generally physicians, nurses, pharmacists or others with a license to treat patients. Team members may include students or practitioners in health care professions, graduate students in PhD or Master degree programs, and people with Bachelor, Master, or doctoral degrees. 

What type of training is required?

To become a Principal Investigator, you will likely need a doctoral degree plus extensive previous research experience.  However, several Genetics graduates have obtained positions as members of a research team without further education or experience beyond the Bachelor degree.

How do I best prepare for a position in clinical research?

The coursework required for the Genetics major will give you a good background, especially when augmented by research experience as an undergraduate.  You should consider taking courses in anatomy (Biology 350), physiology (Biology 335), medical microbiology (Microbiology 310), virology (Microbiology 408), or immunology (Microbiology 475).  A minor in Pharmacy and Toxicology might also be desirable.  Training as an EMT or CNA or otherwise obtaining patient contact hours can be helpful.  Because of the varied types of positions in clinical research there is no one path to being successful in obtaining a job in this area.


Sheridan Schwartz

Education:  BS, Genetics, ISU, 2018

Current Position:  Clinical Research Coordinator, Gastroenterology, UC San Francisco

Currently, I work as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) for the Porphyria Center in University of California San Francisco’s Division of Gastroenterology. The work of a CRC is best described as the “middle man” for the patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, etc. that all have some level of involvement in the running of a drug trial or disorder study. Because I work with rare disease patients (those with undiagnosed or confirmed Porphyria), my daily tasks can include answering potential patient phone calls and directing them to proper testing, accurate documentation of drug trial patient concomitant medications and adverse reactions, or counseling patients regarding their diagnosis. I constantly draw from my ISU education; while I was assigned to be the main coordinator for the genetics-related study, I often refer to concepts learned in biochemistry and bioinformatics. The Genetics track at ISU allows students to hone the skills that are central to success in this job including consistency, attention to detail, and the ability to work autonomously as well as in groups.

Ana Mia Corujo

Education: BS, Genetics, ISU, 2018; Post-baccalaureate scholar, Mayo Clinic

Ana Mia Corujo


While growing up in Puerto Rico and as an Iowa resident exploring rural Iowa during my tenure as a student in ISU I quickly learned about the existing need in healthcare professionals with a background in genetics. These experiences strengthened my resolve to attain a degree in genetics from ISU. Upon graduation, I continued my scientific training at Mayo Clinic’s Post Baccalaureate Research Program where I currently investigate regenerative therapies for age-related cognitive decline.




Kassandra (Kassie) Fisch

Education: BS, Genetics, ISU, 2014

Current Position: Clinical Lab Technologist, Lab Genetics, Mayo Clinic

Kassie Fisch

I have been working as a clinical lab tech for the Genomics lab of Mayo Clinic for the last five years.  Specifically I work in the Florescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH) portion of the lab, where we analyze mostly cancer patient samples looking for genetic abnormalities that can help direct patient care.  Depending on the abnormalities found or not found we can give doctors an idea of how a patient will most likely react or whether harsher methods should be used.  In addition to my scoring duties as a technologist I’m on a couple of specialty teams, one is the array confirmation team where we help confirm abnormalities seen in the microarray results using FISH techniques. The second specialty team I’m on is called the probe team where I help mix and maintain the probes we apply to the samples. I’m constantly grateful for my time at ISU in the genetics program, while a genetics degree isn’t a requirement to work in my lab it’s always helpful to have that base understanding of genes and how they work or all different ways a chromosome can get rearranged especially when it comes to some of my more complex array confirmation cases.

Ashley Yingst

Education:  BS, Genetics, ISU, 2012; MS, Des Moines University

Current Position: Lab Manager, Verneris Lab, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado

Ashley Yingst in lab

My career path truly changed after digging deeper into the genetics laboratory. As an undergrad, I always thought that I wanted to be a physician, but I was given the opportunity to TA for the genetics 313 lab, as well as participate as an undergraduate research scientist for nearly three years in a genetics laboratory with Dr. Martin Spalding's group. The ability to pose any question and find novel approaches and ideas in a lab expanded my career choice and directed me into pursuing a career as a research scientist. Science in a lab is similar to art, in that there really isn't "rules," only guidelines for particular portions. It's up to us as scientists to dive into uncharted territories, similar to new artwork that captures attention. Iowa State's genetics program afforded me the opportunity to experience science qualitatively and truly find out that my future was meant to be in research and that the genetic code was only the beginning of a world of inquisition that I would stumble upon. I am very grateful for my experience as a Cyclone and know that the genetics program positively changed the course of my dreams.