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How can I be an enzymologist?

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I'm graduating with a BS in Biotechnology is one semester. I have internship experience in manufacturing, specifically in immunoassay

 

kits for STD's. However, I'm very interested in enzymology. I don't suppose it is a common research topic, as opposed to alternative fuels

 

or cancer. Is it hard to find jobs involved in enzymology? Or do I have to get a PhD and hope I get a job and somehow funding..

 

-EE

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It is not clear to me what you intend to do. If you want to do basic research, you typically need to get a PhD at some point. If you want to be a technician/research assistant a BS/MS may suffice. That being said, enzymology is a rather general field and there is broad range even in industrial job that are somehow associated with it.

For example you could be an analyst that validates the composition for product control in pharmaceutical production, or you could assist in performing assays to look for therapeutic targets or part of a production team. Or maybe an application specialist in that area etc.

 

The relevant bit is that is basically a topic, deeply rooted in biochemistry that is not necessary connected to a particular type of job.

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Some graduate programs in biochemistry tend to emphasize enzymology more than others. For example Brandeis University used to, but I don't know whether or not they still do. Enzymology can be applied to a number of different problems in academic research or in industry.

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It is not clear to me what you intend to do. If you want to do basic research, you typically need to get a PhD at some point. If you want to be a technician/research assistant a BS/MS may suffice. That being said, enzymology is a rather general field and there is broad range even in industrial job that are somehow associated with it.

For example you could be an analyst that validates the composition for product control in pharmaceutical production, or you could assist in performing assays to look for therapeutic targets or part of a production team. Or maybe an application specialist in that area etc.

 

The relevant bit is that is basically a topic, deeply rooted in biochemistry that is not necessary connected to a particular type of job.

My bad. Specifically, I want to work in research, helping to formulate plans how to approach the experiment and what to do..not so much carry out the lackey work. I'm inclined to believe that this will only happen if I get a PhD. I've worked in manufacturing, and I feel that some of the jobs could be done by someone with a high school diploma. If I'm going to graduate with a BS, I at least want to use it. BTW, these manufacturing jbos do pay well (starting at $35k)...I'm not lookng to be rich, I'm looking to do expand science knowledge ;)

Some graduate programs in biochemistry tend to emphasize enzymology more than others. For example Brandeis University used to, but I don't know whether or not they still do. Enzymology can be applied to a number of different problems in academic research or in industry.

would "industry" be mostly R&D or manufacturing?

Dont forget, I'm an idealistic college student, so I'm probably reaching for fruit that is too high or unrealistic. Let me know so i don't get a rude awakening in 5 yrs from now.

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If you are thinking experiments you are almost certainly thinking academic research. There is comparatively little in experimental research going on in industry with the exception of certain set goals. Examples include specific target screens or formulation optimization.

But in either case, considering you are an idealistic student, I will tell you that typically once you reach these kind of position (academic or industrial) your actually duties will barely revolve around the bench. And that is only if you are successful. If you start a PhD, five years from now you are likely have to do a postdoc for another 4 years or so (though the time is creeping up due to budget cuts). Then, if you apply for a proper job, you are likely to compete with 100-300 other applicants for tenure track position.

If you are the lucky one, your time will be eaten up by teaching, managing your lab, training students and tons of academic responsibility (including grant writing) so your actual time to do proper research can be very limited. And if you get a bad crop of students in your lab you may be fighting your way out of a downward spiral towards your tenure application.

 

To summarize, an academic career (but increasingly also industrial) are highly competitive at the PhD level, you have to be aware that you are not doing full-time research after your postdoc and if either of that is interesting to you, you better be good at networking.

Edited by CharonY

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Although CharonY paints a relatively negative picture, I cannot say that these concerns are not real. Some biochemistry research is done in biotechnology companies, but there are constraints.

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I should probably add that R&D in industry tends to be the most vulnerable positions. In crunch times they are one of the first to go (as they are not directly related to revenue generation).

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I work for a UK Biotech R&D company, I agree with most of the above. However if you want it bad enough then fight for it ;), ALL of the researchers in my lab got there by not giving in. A few dont have PhD's so its not essential, however be prepared to do alot of the lacky work first ;). Its called experience :D.

 

My take on modern research history.

 

I started 30 years ago and spent 6 hours a day 4 days a week in the lab at the bench, I earned good money and around 12 hours a week paperwork filling

 

25 years ago

I spent 4 hours a day 4 days a week at the bench, same moeny and around 20 hours a week paperwork

 

20 years ago

 

I got promoted! I spent 2 hours a day 2 days a week at the bench, I got paid less and spent 40 hours a week doing paperwork twice.

 

15 years ago....... I became head of research! I didnt have a bench anymore but I did have a phone and car, I got paid well but the buck stopped with me and I did nothing but make calls and do paperwork. No idea of my hours as it went in a blur.

 

Today

I have a bench again. I have this because 5 years ago I became a director of the company and made sure I had a bench, I get paid a reasonable amount and I work when I feel like it. I try not to do paperwork as I consider that the work of my head of department, I have a phone and car but only a select few know my number. I love doing the lacky work and enjoy the simple things, my job is fairly safe these days and I no longer have to compete or publish constantly. I did however have a heart attack 10 years ago and got divorced, I also nearly tipped over the edge into alcoholism and came close to a mental breakdown.

 

I have worked hard and I reap the rewards, but was it worth it? Thats for you to decide

 

One thing I will tell you, you will be starting at the bottom and unless you want to serve fries you will work until breaking point. There is always someone just over your shoulder who wants your job, so you have to go the extra mile. I also had ideals and was once fresh and full of excitement, industry or academia will knock all that out of you eventually ;) so enjoy the ride and keep sane, try and remember what really matters in life and dont let the job consume you. Its harder than ever today to get to the top and you will do things to others you wont like, or they will do it to you first.

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I work for a UK Biotech R&D company, I agree with most of the above. However if you want it bad enough then fight for it ;), ALL of the researchers in my lab got there by not giving in. A few dont have PhD's so its not essential, however be prepared to do alot of the lacky work first ;). Its called experience :D.

 

My take on modern research history.

 

I started 30 years ago and spent 6 hours a day 4 days a week in the lab at the bench, I earned good money and around 12 hours a week paperwork filling

 

25 years ago

I spent 4 hours a day 4 days a week at the bench, same moeny and around 20 hours a week paperwork

 

20 years ago

 

I got promoted! I spent 2 hours a day 2 days a week at the bench, I got paid less and spent 40 hours a week doing paperwork twice.

 

15 years ago....... I became head of research! I didnt have a bench anymore but I did have a phone and car, I got paid well but the buck stopped with me and I did nothing but make calls and do paperwork. No idea of my hours as it went in a blur.

 

Today

I have a bench again. I have this because 5 years ago I became a director of the company and made sure I had a bench, I get paid a reasonable amount and I work when I feel like it. I try not to do paperwork as I consider that the work of my head of department, I have a phone and car but only a select few know my number. I love doing the lacky work and enjoy the simple things, my job is fairly safe these days and I no longer have to compete or publish constantly. I did however have a heart attack 10 years ago and got divorced, I also nearly tipped over the edge into alcoholism and came close to a mental breakdown.

 

I have worked hard and I reap the rewards, but was it worth it? Thats for you to decide

 

One thing I will tell you, you will be starting at the bottom and unless you want to serve fries you will work until breaking point. There is always someone just over your shoulder who wants your job, so you have to go the extra mile. I also had ideals and was once fresh and full of excitement, industry or academia will knock all that out of you eventually ;) so enjoy the ride and keep sane, try and remember what really matters in life and dont let the job consume you. Its harder than ever today to get to the top and you will do things to others you wont like, or they will do it to you first.

Damn this was really informative! So, for the most part, "well-paid" research can be achieved through PhD, or lots of experience? Also, I was hoping that idealiastic view would last for a while...ugh that sucks :mellow:

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In a nutshell.......... Make sure it's what you really want then fight for it, if you dont get a PhD then you will have to be very very good and compete against others. You will have a disadvantage but only a small one, these days what really matters is skill and determination. Dont be afraid to take risks but be prepared to give it your all, as an example we take around 6 people a year on a 6 month contract and basically tell them there is 2 jobs available at the end of it.

 

To make sure we get the best value for money we set our intake virtually impossible tasks, we are not looking for solutions to the problems we set! What we look for is the right attitude and determination, personally I like the guy that comes in to work in the morning and before he say's 'Hi', he is all over you about this method or that method.

 

Target the company you want to work for, spend time learning what they do and what they are involved in. Make sure at the interview you offer suggestions about what they are working on, but be cleaver! Dont come across like a know it all simply ask if they have tried this route or that route, ask what the result was. Basically show a genuine interest in what they do. If you want to be really cleaver then find out who the lead is and research what he has written. Read all the papers he has published and ask questions on any that are relevant to the work they are currently doing.

 

JB

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In a nutshell.......... Make sure it's what you really want then fight for it, if you dont get a PhD then you will have to be very very good and compete against others. You will have a disadvantage but only a small one, these days what really matters is skill and determination. Dont be afraid to take risks but be prepared to give it your all, as an example we take around 6 people a year on a 6 month contract and basically tell them there is 2 jobs available at the end of it.

 

To make sure we get the best value for money we set our intake virtually impossible tasks, we are not looking for solutions to the problems we set! What we look for is the right attitude and determination, personally I like the guy that comes in to work in the morning and before he say's 'Hi', he is all over you about this method or that method.

 

Target the company you want to work for, spend time learning what they do and what they are involved in. Make sure at the interview you offer suggestions about what they are working on, but be cleaver! Dont come across like a know it all simply ask if they have tried this route or that route, ask what the result was. Basically show a genuine interest in what they do. If you want to be really cleaver then find out who the lead is and research what he has written. Read all the papers he has published and ask questions on any that are relevant to the work they are currently doing.

 

JB

How thank you so much! I love to learn about the ins and outs of the industry.

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Targeting companies and, ideally, network with people in the industry is usually the best way to secure a job. That is probably universally true for all competitive jobs (including academic ones), but which is often overlooked. That is, often people focus on degrees and topics rather then the competition bit.

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