The Who, What, Where of Careers:


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What does this person do? 

  • Research: 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
  • Science Writing: writes content for specialists/non-specialists and presents it online or in-print in the format of articles, videos, podcasts, pamphlets, and magazines
  • Program Officer: collects incoming grants/applications, organizes reviewers based on expertise to assess the grants/applications, and identifies large areas in science that need to be funded and researched to advance society
  • Regulatory Affairs: reviews and approves new drug/medical device applications for clinical studies and marketing 

Where does this person work?  

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Education and Experience Requirements:


Education & Experience

Lab Technician

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

Postdoctoral Fellow

  • PhD in science related fields

Research Scientists

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

Science Writer

  • BS, MS, or PhD in science related fields
  • Experience varies
  • Some positions may require a journalism degree

Grant Administration/Program Officer

  • MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in science related fields 
  • Some administrative experience

Regulatory Affairs

  • MS, MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in science related fields
  • Experience that complements education


What to Consider before Entering the Profession: 

  • Teaching may be limited to small groups of trainees who are learning specific scientific methods/protocols
  • You may conduct research and/or manage a team that does research
  • There may be more administrative duties like scheduling, organizing, and leading meetings based on your position
  • There are a lot more rules and regulations in government positions to ensure that the ethical and legal requirements are followed

Other information:

  • If you work at the FDA, you spend 50% of your time doing research and the other 50% doing regulatory work, i.e., reviewing applications.
  • Grant writing is optional; you can write grants so that you can obtain funding to do the research of your choice. Otherwise, if your research is funded by the government, you may be assigned projects by department heads.



Want to learn more? Check out the additional resources.

A Microbiology Career in the United States Army

Griffith Career LPThere are many options for newly graduated Ph.D.s and postdoctoral fellows looking for non-academic career paths. One of the lesser-known options is a Research Microbiologist in the United States Army. I interviewed Dr. Gina L. Griffith to find out how she started her microbiology career in the military.  Dr. Griffith has a B.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. in Pathology/Immunology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC). She completed her first postdoc at the Dean McGee Eye Institute in the Department of Ophthalmology at OUHSC, after which she joined the United States Army Institute for Surgical Research (USAISR) as a postdoc in the Sensory Trauma Department. After a year with the USAISR, she was commissioned directly into the Army as a Research Microbiologist and is currently a Deputy Director of Sensory Trauma at the USAISR.

Enhancing Diversity in Science: A Career In Science Policy

gibbs hi Career LPDr. Kenneth Gibbs is director of the Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program and program director in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity at NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). He was previously a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. His impressive career has been guided by the desire to change the culture of science to enhance opportunities for all -- with a particular focus on people from historically underrepresented groups -- as well as his philosophy of life encapsulated by a quote from his mother to "Never self-eliminate. Let them tell you 'no.' Don't close the door on yourself."

In this interview with Dr. Gibbs, we learn how he made the transition to science policy.

From Academia to National Labs and Federal Air Force Bases

wpafb gateIn this issue of Microbe Mentor, I interview Dr. Bryan Crable. Dr. Crable is a Research Scientist at UES, Inc. in Dayton, OH. UES, Inc. is a subcontractor providing scientific talent to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He is currently working on microbial degradation of polyurethane and corrosion of underground fuel storage tanks.

Ph.D. to the FDA: From a Student to Government Research and Regulatory Review

Untitled 3With trained Ph.D. scientists surpassing available academic scientist positions, students want to know what their non-academic career options are in regards to research. While students know about industry research, government research is an option that includes aspects of regulatory review, the process by which products/drugs are approved for human clinical trials and marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We break down how one student transitioned from academia to government, the differences between the two sectors, and how to get involved in regulatory review once inside the FDA. She also goes on to share her passion for getting more women into science.  

Microbiology Career Profiles: Program Director at National Science Foundation with Matthew Kane

Matthew Kane manages the grant proposal review process and oversees funded projects at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Learn more about what he does, how he got to his position, and what you should do to get there.