A good college education provides intellectual growth and opportunity for a lucrative job upon completion of your college degree. If your bent is in the biological sciences and you are not aiming to obtain a graduate degree, you should consider working for a biotechnology company.
Laboratory courses are essential for biotechnology jobs
One of the most important things you can do if you want a job in biotechnology is to take laboratory courses in your field.For instance, many students have been grateful that they took a laboratory course in biochemistry. Such a course teaches techniques such as polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) for analyzing proteins, Western blotting for seeing if antibodies react with a protein, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for cloning, and the basics of laboratory research such as using a pH meter and a centrifuge. Knowing how to perform such specific techniques and use the proper equipment can be critical in beating out the competition for a laboratory job. In particular, learning the different types of chromatography techniques would give you skills that are in high demand. Knowing how to purify proteins by FPLC (fast pressure liquid chromatography) or peptides by HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) should greatly enhance your marketability. These high powered and expensive pieces of equipment are widely used by both private and university laboratories.
Laboratory work in genetics is another area that would greatly help your search for a biotechnology job. This will give you a background in the recombinant DNA work upon which many industries are based. A thorough understanding of the principles of genetics is often a great help for those working in biotechnology.
Pursue undergraduate research if at all possible
If you are at a university or college that has professors conducting independent research, try to get a position as an undergraduate research assistant. Such positions are in great demand, and professors will frequently pick the best students in their classes. Getting a good grade in a class such as biochemistry or genetics will greatly help your chances of being chosen for undergraduate research positions.
Also important is finding out ahead of time whether you enjoy spending time in a laboratory. For many, it is an addictive endeavor that is highly rewarding, while some despise it. Ideally, you should know ahead of time before you take a laboratory job whether you enjoy that type of work.
Performing undergraduate research can give you specific skills that are in demand at private industrial laboratories. For instance, the techniques of mammalian cell cultures are currently in demand in certain areas. If you have mastered these techniques, it should greatly enhance your chances of getting a job.
Don’t forget the basics
Learning to keep a detailed laboratory notebook is one of the most important things that you should learn in your undergraduate career. In some industries, the laboratory personnel sign their notebooks at the end of the day. They are then kept under lock and key.
Data analysis is another area to master as an undergraduate. If at all possible, take coursework in statistics to learn how to manipulate numerical data. There are a several high-powered statistical programs that will do the work for you, but learning which statistical tests use will be invaluable.
Try to target your field
If you are interested in a particular specialty such as stem cell research, try to attend a university with a stem cell research program. If you can do this and are chosen to do research in a stem cell laboratory, you should be in good shape when it comes time to hunt for jobs.
Alternatively, if your dream is to perform agricultural research, try going to a school with an active agricultural program. If you know what you want to do, you could specialize as an undergraduate. For instance, you could specialize in plant sciences and learn the techniques of plant molecular biology and plant biochemistry. You would then be in a good position to get a job with an agricultural research company.
About the author
Amanda Greene is Brand Manager at RHL, premiere online supplier of dorm room bedding.