Molecular and Cellular Biology Careers to Take Center Stage

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If you majored in biology or another life science field and you’re working as a lab tech, or in sales or customer service, you may be disappointed in where your career is headed. You thought that your bio or life science major would lead you into breakthrough research, a cure for AIDS or cancer, or saving or improving lives. Instead you’re selling drugs for “big pharma” that have more and dangerous side effects than the illnesses they’re intended to relieve. Time to shift your career into high gear and get into the fast-paced cutting edge fields of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*Net) notes that both fields will offer some exciting career options for degreed professionals. Here’s a brief summary:


When researchers first mapped the human genome, it took nearly a decade and cost $3 billion. Today, the process takes just three weeks, and costs have nosedived to just over $1,000. As a researcher or even technician, you’ll be involved in applying computational systems and information technologies to molecular biology, including statistics and algorithms to understand biological processes and systems. You’ll focus on new developments in genome bioinformatics and computational biology. To get up to speed in these areas, you might consider attending one of the many bioinformatics conferences and workshops listed in COMS.

Molecular and Cellular Biologist

Cell biologists once studied individual cellular components. Today, they deal with thousands at a time, which means you’ll have to rely on both old and new tools and technologies. Tools of genetics and molecular biology help piece together a living cell’s complex inner mechanics. An article in Science by Peter Gwynne and Gary Heebner quotes Kim Warren, VP and technical director of Cambrex, "In order to investigate mechanisms you really need to look at the cellular level." This sentiment was reiterated by Brian Conkle, president of Axxora LLC,   who said, "Visualization within the cell is hot. It's important to be able to see signaling and cell trafficking and to explore both how cells communicate with other cells around them and how communication occurs inside the cell." This career field includes cancer biology, neurobiology, protein structural biology, intracellular communication, dendritic tree formation, bioinformatics-computer modeling, enzyme engineering, mitochondrial biogenesis and other related fields.

Biomedical Engineer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of biomedical engineering jobs is expected to grow by a whopping 72% by 2018—some 11,600 new jobs. U.S. News & World Report referred to biomedical engineering as one of the 50 Best Careers in 2010, saying no single occupation is expected to have more job growth in this decade. As a biomedical engineer, you’ll develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining your knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering skills. You’ll work with medical scientists to design new artificial organs, better prostheses for lost body parts, CyberKnife surgery, automatic insulin injections, and other innovations. To get up to speed in this field, consider joining the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

Want to break into a hot new medical career? Consider the fields mentioned above to get back on the fast track.

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