As a STEM major, it might sometimes feel like you have a very narrow choice of careers, limited to abstract, lab-based research. But that’s not always the case. Though lab work is one of the major applications of a STEM education, there are dozens of other routes you could take as well—and lab work doesn’t necessarily mean just repeating the same tasks, day in and day out.
A few weeks ago, BioCT produced a webinar in partnership with the UConn Center for Career Development titled “A Day in the Life of a Laboratory Operations Professional.” Our keynote speaker was Dr. Todd Arnold, the Chief Laboratory Operations Officer at Sema4. Sema4 is a predictive health company, working closely with patients to help determine their individual genomics and health outcomes. Their Health Intelligence Platform consists of four main areas: Patient Engagement, Multiscale Biotechnology, Data Science & Engineering, and Disease Mechanisms & Biomarker Discovery. There’s room for a STEM degree in any one of these branches, whether it’s sequencing genetic samples in the lab or developing phone apps to increase patient engagement.
The main thing to keep in mind, says Dr. Arnold, is being flexible and realizing that the STEM skill set is transferable to dozens of career opportunities. Laboratory work and research are a critical part of the job, but they’re not all of it—even in a lab position, you’ll be collaborating with other groups on marketing, sales, and legal information. Or maybe you won’t be in the lab at all—your STEM background will allow you to succeed in other positions, like technical or scientific sales. Within biotech companies like Sema4, the work you’re doing could be just one step away from the patients, directly impacting their lives.
Because there are so many opportunities and the field is constantly changing, you may not get to your ultimate career goal right away, or you might find that your goals are constantly shifting. Again, be flexible—recognize that your path might take you somewhere differently than you’d planned, and take advantage of the opportunities to challenge yourself and grow, both professionally and personally.
So when you’re starting to search for STEM-based positions, don’t limit yourself. Whether you work in lab or sales, research or marketing, you’ll succeed and grow if you apply the critical-thinking, problem-solving, collaborative skills you’ve gained through your experiences.
“A Day in the Life of a Laboratory Operations Professional” was part of an ongoing webinar series on careers in bioscience, produced by BioCT in partnership with the UConn Center for Career Development. Please see BioCT’s website for a recording of the full webinar. The next webinar is “A Day in the Life of a Government Affairs Professional at Boehringer Ingelheim” and scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, 2019 at 10:00 am – 11:00 am EDT: Register here.