The Who, What, Where of Careers:


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What does this person do? 

  • Teaches lecture and/or laboratory courses to undergraduate and/or graduate students
  • Writes grants to obtain money for labs or training programs
  • Reads literature, identifies gaps, develops hypotheses, conducts protocols to test hypotheses, analyzes data, presents major findings at national and international meetings, and publishes findings in scientific journals
  • Manages a budget and the scientists and trainees in a research lab
  • Sits on committees pertaining to graduate recruitment, curriculum, and training

Where does this person work?  

  • Community Colleges
  • Private and Public Universities (these can be designated as primarily undergraduate universities or research intensive universities)

What to Consider before Entering the Profession:

  • How much do you like teaching?
  • Do you like writing grants and managing a budget?
  • Do you thrive on conducting research and coming up with ideas?
  • Do you like having flexibility with schedules and research topics? 

Education and Experience Requirements: 


Education and Experience

Lab Technician

  • Associate’s, BS, or MS in science-related fields
  • Some research experience

Postdoctoral Fellow

  • PhD in science-related fields

Staff Research Scientist

  • MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in science-related fields
  • Postdoc  experience

Tenure Professorship

  • MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in science-related fields
  • Postdoc  or research scientist experience


  • PhD in science-related fields
  • MS or BS in science-related fields for community college positions
  • Experience varies by college/university


Other information:

  • Teaching and research loads will vary depending on the type of college/university. At community colleges, teaching is the only activity, there is no research. At primarily undergraduate universities, you will mostly teach and do a little research. This is the inverse for research intensive universities.
  • With an MD or MD/PhD, a person will spend time doing research, teaching, or seeing patients in the hospital. The amount spent on these tasks differs according to the job description.



Want to learn more? Check out the additional resources.

Finding Your Way in Academia: An interview with Dr. Valerie Horsley

ValerieLP 2Dr. Valerie Horsley is an Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. Her academic career has been extremely successful, and she has made numerous contributions to the fields of wound healing and stem cell biology. She is also vocal about equality in academia and keeping a positive lab environment, which was highlighted in an episode of Yale’s Spectrum Podcast. The podcast inspired this interview below, where she talks about navigating academia and mentoring students in the lab.

Testing the Waters of Research: Working as a Lab Technician

picfinalSome of us know that we want to pursue a Ph.D. and conduct research, while others may have doubts. If you’ve had an occasional internship or no research experience at all, becoming a lab tech is a good way to assess whether research excites you. We interviewed Brittney Ivanov, a lab tech at Trinity University, about what she does and what factors to consider for a lab tech job. Her experience has taught her that research is a very collaborative environment.

Navigating a Science Policy Career: Interview with Kate Stoll, Senior Policy Advisor for the MIT Washington Office

Katie Stoll 2Are you interested in science policy? Dr. Kate Stoll, a Senior Policy Advisor, share her career path, what she does in her current position, and how to be competitive for science policy. In her current role, she bridges researchers and policy-makers by creating policy-relevant reports that are shared with the government.

Is Undergraduate Science Teaching for You? (Webinar)

Undergraduate Science Teaching 2

Presenter: Laura Runyen-Janecky, University of Richmond
October 14, 2014
Duration: 56:11
Presented to the 2014-2015 ASM Science Teaching Fellows

Webinar Objectives:
• Understand the diversity of institutional types and teaching positions
• Understand employer needs and expectations for different institutional types
• Contrast the balance between teaching, research, and service expectations at various colleges
• Develop a personal teaching and learning plan to keep learning about teaching and to continue an ongoing interest in pedagogy
• Create a local partners networking plan

Click on the slide to open the webinar in a new page.

Samantha Elliott: Professor at St. Mary’s College

Elliott Samantha-150x150Samantha Elliott
St. Mary's College
BSP Research Residency Alum 08-09

Samantha Elliott is a professor and cell biologist/immunologist at St. Mary's College of Maryland, a nondenominational, coed, small, public liberal arts institution in St. Mary's City, Md. She teaches Principles of Biology I (with lab), primarily to biology or biochemistry majors; upper-division biology electives immunology and cell physiology (with lab); and Contemporary Bioscience, primarily to non-majors. Elliott's teaching career got its start at the undergraduate level. "I came to St. Mary's College directly from my postdoctoral studies, where I was also an adjunct instructor at a local community college for a summer session," she says. "Before that, I was a teaching assistant in both college and graduate school. My teaching assistantship in college is what led me to become a professor. I experienced one of those aha! moments as a TA, and I was hooked." Elliott says her teaching has changed dramatically in the five years that she's held her full-time, tenure-track position. "In the beginning, I was glued to my PowerPoint lectures and thought that memorized detail equated knowledge," she says. "I am now more concerned about producing lifelong learners with skills that will help them as scientists."

Loretta Brancaccio-Taras: Professor and Chair at Kingsborough Community College

Loretta1-272x300Loretta Brancaccio-Taras
Professor and Chair
Kingsborough Community College, Brooklyn, NY
Biology Scholars Alum 05-06

Loretta Brancaccio-Taras began teaching as a graduate student, an assignment that not only paid her graduate school tuition but also set the course for her professional future. “I liked it, and every position I’ve had since has involved teaching,” she says of the experience. Brancaccio-Taras joined the faculty of Kingsborough Community College (KCC) in 1994, and for the last two years, she has been professor and chairperson of the KCC Department of Biological Sciences. In this position, she balances teaching, faculty mentoring, and handling the administrative work necessary for the department to run smoothly. Brancaccio-Taras teaches General Microbiology, an elective for biology majors (many of whom plan to transfer to four-year schools), and Microbiology in Health and Disease, a lecture and lab for students in the allied health sciences. The Health and Disease course is required for nursing students.

From Never Teaching to Professor & Chair

HarriottOlivia Harriott is an associate professor of biology at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT and the interim chair of her department. A Jesuit institution, Fairfield caters to a student body that is predominantly Catholic. Harriott has a nine-month appointment and spends three months on campus, doing service, research, or outreach projects. As the interim chair of her department, Harriott is particularly busy with the service component of her position, attending and presiding over a dizzying variety of meetings. “It’s a lot of committees,” Harriott acknowledges. 

Teaching Postdoc and Beyond

WhiteC. Dinitra White is an associate professor of biology at the North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. “I wear a lot of hats in my job,” she says. “I spent the first couple years getting my research program up and running and writing grants. It is very, very important to get funded. I became really interested in career development for students later on. In addition to regular teaching, service, and research, I run a couple of programs. One of them is a university-wide program to help students who are interested in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and law prepare for their future careers.”

As a Teacher, "You Don't Ever Stop Learning"

GovindanBrinda Govindan is full-time teaching at San Francisco State University, where she has been a lecturer for 14 years. "The moment I stepped into my own classroom-when I wasn't a TA or teaching for someone else's course, and when I could write my own charter-I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is where I belong. I could do this every day for the rest of my life and be really happy.'" She spends 90% of her day interacting with students. 

Administrator, Researcher, Teacher - "There Are No Typical Days"

ObomDr. Kristina Obom is the program director for the Master of Science in Bioinformatics and Master of Science in Biotechnology programs at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. “In my job, I have to hire adjunct faculty, schedule courses, and develop programs-we're constantly developing new courses and new degrees. I'm also responsible for recruiting students. I do faculty development, since most of our faculty are adjuncts, and, like me, when they first walk in they don't know how to teach; so we try to provide workshops for them and opportunities to learn basic teaching skills. We have a very robust online presence, so a lot of what we do is to help our faculty learn to teach online.”

Teaching and Research, the Best of Both Worlds

Horzempa 000Joseph Horzempa, an assistant professor of biology at West Liberty University in West Liberty, West Virginia, investigates the pathogenic lifestyle of Francisella tularensis. When asked how much time he spends on teaching and research, he says, "he spends on average two hours a day teaching, and the remainder of his day goes toward training students in the lab and working on course material or grant-related paperwork in his office. He attends about one hour's worth of meetings a week for various university committees.”

Teaching – Sometimes Rewarding, Always Meaningful

Liao WS 000Professor Min-Ken Liao still gets nervous before she starts her undergraduate biology courses at Furman University in Greenville, SC. In class, she uses props, tells jokes and stories, and even sings sometimes. Because of that, “people say they can't tell that I'm nervous about being in front of a classroom. When I'm in the zone, talking about things I am passionate about, I am not at all nervous." She teaches a 3-week-long, 2-credit course called “Infectious Diseases in Movies.” She covers important infectious disease concepts through movies, uses Twitter to exchange information, and discusses the psychological and social aspects of diseases. 

Merging Two Interests - Biology and Cartooning

Hosler WebDr. Jay Hosler, professor of biology at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, is the author of a college-level biology comic book textbook. Hosler has written and illustrated on scientific ideas, such as the human eye, entitled Optical Allusions (2008). He notes, "The best science faculty I ever had, delivered challenging content but also placed it in some historical or experimental context. They told a story. They provided powerful ways in which I could build my own structure for the knowledge. I think comics can do the same thing."

Teaching Students Across the Globe

Mawn WebDr. Mary Mawn, an assistant professor, mentor, and area coordinator in the Center for Distance Learning at SUNY Empire State College in NY, teaches science courses and laboratories online to students across the globe. Everyone wants to know how she teaches science laboratories online. Her answer? "We use different approaches depending on the course," for example, in the environmental science course, students do field-based activities where they collect data in their own communities. She adds, with the online learning environments, “you have think of new ways to envision learning activities and assessments."

Always Evolving, Always Changing

Pommerville Web 000Jeffrey Pommerville, professor of biology and microbiology at Glendale Community College in Arizona says “his position has afforded him some unique career opportunities," such as giving talks on bioterrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. When teaching, he understands that many students have jobs outside of the classroom and learning may not be their top priority. When he surpasses these challenges, he gets his satisfaction from “seeing students progress over courses—people who didn’t start with a particularly strong background, but you can just watch them progress, progress, progress." 

The Online/Hybrid Class Guru


Jennifer Herzog, an assistant professor at Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer, NY teaches 17 credit hours each semester, which includes lecture and lab courses and the rest is spent on outreach or service. She says one of the biggest advantages of working at a community college “is the flexibility of her schedule." To anyone considering teaching science at a community college, “don’t just write it off as not stimulating enough or think that it wouldn’t be a challenge. Because the challenges come; they just come in different ways than at four-year institutions."