CAREERS IN MICROBIAL SCIENCES
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What does this person do?
- Food production: understands and develops the standards for microorganism content food production, like yogurt, beer, or wine
- Bioremediation: cleans up waste or toxic chemicals with organisms
- Wastewater management: studies the wastewater systems to understand optimum conditions to prevent microbial growth
- Microbial control: evaluates existing microbial control techniques and creates new products/methods
- Fermentation and Cell Culture: optimizes the machines and conditions used to grow microorganisms and cells in large quantities during product development
- Metabolic Engineering: creates tools to increase the expression of natural and synthetic products
- Biotechnology: develops large molecular tools, like reagents and instruments
- Pharmaceutical: develops novel, small-molecule drugs and medical devices
Where does this person work?
- Biotechnology companies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Food manufacturing/production companies
- Skin care product development/manufacturing companies
- Contracting companies that offer specific services
Education and Experience Requirements:
- Varies based on positions:
- Most research and project manager positions require a PhD with relevant industry experience
- Research on the preclinical and clinical studies require a PhD or MD with relevant industry experience
- For sales and marketing positions, companies favor science undergraduate degrees and an MBA, some have advanced degrees
- Any positions in regulatory affairs favors science undergraduate degrees, some have advanced degrees
- For quality assurance and control, you need a science undergraduate degree, some have advanced degrees
What to Consider before Entering the Profession:
- Do you like to explore projects or stick with the goals/vision of the company? When working in industry, your research has to fit within the goals/vision of the company—therefore, there is little room for exploratory research.
- Do you like to overcome the barriers in research or your experiments? Sometimes in industry, projects don’t work and they get terminated.
- Do you like seeing projects from start to finish? In industry, each person does their part and hands the project to someone else.
- Do you like conducting your work under strict rules and regulations? Because of the strict guidelines from the government, industries have to follow protocols for their products/drugs.
- Once you get into the research side of industry, there are many opportunities to move up the ladder and/or laterally into different business aspects of the company.
Want to learn more? Check out the additional resources.
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Wesley Morovic, Assistant Scientist, explains his journey from a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin to DuPont. Learn more about what he does, how he got to his position, and what you should do to get there.
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Dr. Elyse Rodgers-Vieira, a Scientist from Bayer CropScience, identifies new pesticidal genes using bioinformatic tools. As a project manager, she gets to work with many different people across the company. To prepare for a job in industry, she recommends embracing opportunities where you can gain more experience working professionally in multidisciplinary teams. Check out her profile to learn more about what she does and her advice to trainees.
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Kathleen Engelbrecht is a Lead Scientist at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, spends her time doing bench work in the lab and at her desk writing reports, analyzing data, and planning experiments. Her hands on experience in the lab made her a great fit for her current position and she credits being at the right place at the right time in getting the job.
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Isaac Wagner is a Senior Microbiologist at Ciris Energy, a start-up biotech company. He works in Research and Development (R&D) to produce high-value compounds. His advice for someone who wants to work in a start-up is to develop your interpersonal skills while in school so that you can effectively work as part of a team and be adaptable.
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Joe McCall, Team Lead & Quality Assurance at Bausch + Lomb works in the private industry, specifically in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. He leads a team of microbiologists who are responsible for the microbiological safety, purity, and identity of Bausch + Lomb’s contact lens care and ophthalmic solutions. On daily basis, he uses a variety of technologies and methods to assess the microbiological quality of the products they produce and the environment in which they’re produced. His one piece of advice for students is to be active about your career and pursue professional development opportunities. Check out the rest of his profile.
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After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Master’s Program in Biology, I was offered a product development job at 3M in the Medical Division. A significant portion of my new job required the application of microbiology skills and knowledge. I joined the Henrici Society for Microbiologists, a local microbiology association, to connect with others in the field and keep up on current trends.
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I received my NRCM RM certification in Consumer Products and Quality Assurance Microbiology in July 1995. I am currently employed by Danisco, a leading food ingredient and biotechnology company, which is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is primarily a bio‐manufacturing company and has operations in over 40 different countries and in every time zone in the world. The company offers a wide range of ingredients and solutions for food, agriculture, and industrial applications and is arguably the largest food ingredient company in the world. Although most people have never heard of Danisco, its ingredients are sold to food and consumer products around the world. It is estimated that Danisco ingredients are used in about every second ice cream, every second cheese, every third box of detergent and every fourth loaf of bread produced globally.
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The American Type Culture Collection, better known as ATCC, is one of the country’s oldest and most respected biotech companies. Founded in 1914, ATCC began as a simple collection to preserve a variety of microbes being studied by scientists. Today, it maintains a vast repository of the many different organisms of interest to researchers in every area of the life sciences. Among the organisms available are viruses, bacteria, fungi, protists, and eukaryotic cell lines.
ATCC employs biologists with a wide range of interests and specialties: medical microbiologists, molecular biologists, stem cell researchers, marine microbiologists, specialists in influenza, biotoxins, mycology, and biosafety, and many others. Many employees are hired to work in one area of research and, after a few years, they expand their scope or transfer to a different department as their interests grow and change. ATCC excels at offering training and growth opportunities, whether it’s for a new biologist at their first job out of college or for an experienced employee looking for new challenges to test their skills. An ATCC employee’s year is punctuated with conferences, workshops, and lectures that enable them to constantly grow as a scientist.