Biotechnology researchers manipulate and utilize the molecular qualities of plants and animals for human use. They work in labs, often as part of a scientific team or in collaboration with other professionals, and use laboratory technology and equipment. A Ph.D. is required for biotechnology research, as are communication and evaluations skills.
Biotechnology researchers delve into the intricacies of various plant and animal life forms at the molecular level. This research often uses genetic manipulation to try to improve agricultural production, pharmaceutical products, medical treatments, or mitigation of environmental pollution. Read on to learn more about this profession.
|Required Education||Ph.D. in biological sciences|
|Other Requirements||While still in school, most obtain temporary research positions|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||8% for biochemists and biophysicists*|
|Median Salary (2016)**||$80,764 for biotechnology research scientist|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com
Job Description for a Biotechnology Researcher
Biotechnology researchers investigate both plant and animal life at the molecular level to understand their place in nature. Some of the knowledge gained from this research may be used to create a range of items, from new pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides to food preservation methods and disease-resistant plant strains. This research may also lead to other breakthroughs intended to benefit mankind.
Researchers may work for laboratories in the pharmaceutical industry or elsewhere, or for public institutions, including universities and organizations such as the National Institutes of Health. Biotechnology research scientists often investigate the DNA and RNA of bacteria and viruses, as well as the genetic makeup of animals, plants, and people.
Examples of what biotechnology researchers can be involved in include developing disease- or insect-resistant crops through the insertion of genes, therefore limiting the use of pesticides, and inserting human insulin-producing genes into bacteria to create miniature insulin-producing factories. These researchers may also be asked to perform DNA comparisons to help law enforcement officers identify culprits responsible for committing crimes.
Some marine biotechnology researchers seek out new anti-cancer drugs derived from marine invertebrates. Others genetically engineer microbes to clean up oil spills. Marine environmental research focuses on restoring wetlands and estuaries that are contaminated with pollutants.
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Biotechnology Researcher Job Duties
Job duties vary significantly depending on the researcher's specialty. Researchers in organizations that obtain funding through grants plan and implement studies. They may also prepare proposals to obtain funding. After the project is funded, the researcher manages the project to meet grant requirements. Researchers who work in industry may also prepare project proposals for senior executives to approve.
Senior researchers manage project teams. They design project activities and develop timelines. These researchers also evaluate data and report on results. They may be required to prepare verbal presentations, write reports, and participate in project meetings.
Biotechnology researchers use a variety of tools to accomplish their work. These may include: electron and optical microscopes, chemistry laboratory equipment, radiology, dissection equipment, and computer-based analytical software. Live laboratory animals may also be used. Researchers often work with teams of scientists and technicians to accomplish projects. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are important for this position.
Salary Information and Career Outlook for Biotechnology Researchers
According to PayScale.com, biotechnology research scientists earned a median annual salary of $80,764, as of November 2016. At that same time, research associates in biotechnology earned a median salary of $53,088. The BLS also reported that the employment of all types of biochemists and biophysicists is expected to increase 8% from 2014-2024, adding that research in biotechnology in particular should be a source of job growth (www.bls.gov). Biotech researchers with doctoral degrees will face competition for academic research positions, with private industry offering more research opportunities than academia. Economic conditions will affect the availability of research grants. Researchers assigned to long-term funded projects may stand a better chance of sustained employment, according to the BLS.
Biotechnology researchers conduct research on plants and animals to create products and lead to new medical breakthroughs. They hold a Ph.D. and are required to search for funding, write project proposals, and manage project teams. This field is expected to see slightly faster than average growth in job opportunities through the year 2024, however funding for positions is highly competitive.