CLAS Industry Spotlight: Research Careers in Life Sciences

In this post:

Alumni Insights:

Matt Berberich ’00
Senior Research Technologist at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard
Physiology & Neurobiology and Psychology Major
LinkedIn URL: www.linkedin.com/pub/matt-berberich/11/63b/613/en

What is a typical day in your job like?

My primary responsibility is the operation and maintenance of a mass spectrometer in an immunology laboratory that looks at the processing and presentation of antigens during HIV infection.  I coordinate with graduate students, post docs, and collaborators to process and analyze protein and peptide samples.  I also get to perform my own experiments and have my own projects using various cell culture and molecular biology techniques.  I help with lab safety, ordering supplies, and trying to keep things organized.

What advice do you have for current students looking to enter this field?

Try to get some independent research experience to get a better sense of what life in the lab is like.  Talk to graduate students and post docs at UConn about their experiences and what their career goals are.  Try to narrow down what your scientific interests are both in terms of the subject matter (immunology, neuroscience, etc.) as well as the level of analysis (molecular, cell, behavior, etc.).  When you join a lab, make sure it is a good fit for you in terms of the lab environment and culture.  Being a good scientist does not necessarily mean that they are a good boss and mentor.

What are typical entry level jobs in this field?

As a laboratory assistant or technician generally you would be working with a graduate student or post doc on their project.  First getting proficient in various laboratory techniques and then performing the experiments yourself.  Then you would discuss the results with members of the lab, determine why something did/did not work and help with the next set of experiments.  You might present scientific papers in lab meetings.  Your interactions with the head of the lab depend on the size of the group as well as his or her working style. The more proactive you are in learning new techniques, helping others, asking questions the better your chances of gaining more responsibilities and getting your name on posters and papers.

Any additional advice you would share with current UConn students?

Try to network by attending department seminars and talking to the speaker.  Learning about the career paths of established scientists can be extremely interesting and insightful.  Take a look at the publication history (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) as well as the funding history (http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm) of the lab, as labs with quality publications and stable funding are in a better position to hire people.  Email labs that are performing research that interests you, even if there are no obvious job postings.  Scientists who are passionate about what they do love to talk science and are eager to meet others who share that passion.

Relevant Articles:
(Click on the links to read the full articles)

Top 10 Careers for Biology Majors by Mike Profita on About.com

“A biology major is a good choice for students who enjoy science and are particularly intrigued by living things. After graduation, a biology degree opens the door to many career possibilities…”

2014 Life Sciences Salary Survey by Jyoti Madhusoodanan on TheScientist
“Compensation for life sciences professionals in the U.S., Canada, and Europe increased moderately since 2013, according to The Scientist’s annual Salary Survey of the community. Some specialties, including genetics, genomics, and immunology, however, showed particularly notable increases…”

Industry Job Boards:
Bio Careers
BioPlanet
Bioscience Careers
BioSpace
HireLifeScience.com
jobs.sciencecareers
New Scientist Jobs
USA.gov for Science: Internships & fellowships

Professional Associations:
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Physiological Association
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG)
American Society for Microbiology
Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO)
Federation of American Sciences for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
Genetics Society of America (GSA)
National Association of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Additional Resources:
American Institute of Biological Sciences: Careers in Biology
American Physiological Association: Careers in Physiology
Careers in Life Science
Careers in Psychology: Careers in Cognitive Neuroscience
Opportunities at UConn: Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program

The UConn Center for Career Development does our best to share up to date, relevant resources; however the CCD does not specifically endorse any of these sites.  Before joining an organization, investing in classes, or utilizing a placement agency be sure to check its credentials through additional sources.

By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Merritt