Discovery Research Jobs in Biotech

by | March 10, 2009

Research associate jobs usually have several tiers. After several years of experience, you can move up to a senior research associate. In this position, you will perform scientific experiments in collaboration with others and will be called upon to exercise your own judgment in completing experiments. You will also develop and implement tools and methods to meet the objectives of the research group. The highest level in this track is the principal research associate, who often acts as a primary investigator of independent research projects, where individual judgment is applied toward developing tools and techniques and interpreting results. Principal research associates may also have a supervisory role, as well as involvement in cross-functional teams. Increasing knowledge and understanding of FDA regulations is also expected as you move up the ranks. The salary range for the research associate track is from $40,000 to $70,000.

The scientist job is the senior researcher position in the R&D function. After several years as a scientist, you can expect to move to a senior scientist position. Senior scientists are recognized for their depth of expertise in their fields. In addition to conducting research programs, they investigate the feasibility of applying scientific principles and concepts to potential inventions, projects and problems. Senior scientists also act as project leaders and consultants for the research function. At the head of each research group is a principal scientist, a scientist who is recognized as an expert and expected to have broad knowledge of state-of-the-art principles and theory. Principal scientists are also expected to help set the scientific direction of the company and make significant contributions to new research initiatives. Principal Scientists initiate, direct and execute research programs, develop advanced technologies, and test theories and concepts. They also participate in the patent application process, act as spokespersons for their function as well as internal consultants to management in areas that impact implementation of research activities. The salary range for the Scientist track is from $60,000 to $130,000.

Most scientist positions have at least some management responsibility, with the more senior scientists responsible for younger PhDs as well as Research Associates. Most of the time, managerial responsibilities are limited to the group and laboratory level. Leadership positions beyond that usually require both management and scientific experience. Positions like a scientific director require over 10 years and vice president positions over 15 years of scientific management experience. In all types of research jobs, knowledge of FDA laws and regulations is an additional asset.

In many of the larger companies, a scientific director, who reports to the vice president, shares the duties of leading the discovery research group. Typically, this position is more focused on managing operations. The director directs the work of several research groups, conducts planning, develops budgets, interfaces with managers in other functional areas, contributes to patent applications and represents the R&D function in internal and external meetings.

The vice president of R&D is the highest-ranking position in the R&D function. The vice president sets strategic scientific objectives, develops operational plans, oversees the R&D organization, and assigns managerial responsibilities to each group. In addition, the VP provides leadership and direction on all research activities, initiation of new projects, and development of policies within a function. The vice president also represents the company in technical issues, initiates new technologies and processes, and manages scientific and technical career development of employees. The salary range for the scientific management track ranges from $100,000 up to $175,000 or higher.

Bioinformatics jobs in biotech

Bioinformatics jobs come with several different areas of focus, which are less strictly hierarchical than discovery research jobs. The analyst/programmer job provides more focused computational analysis support. Analyst/programmers design and develop software, databases, and interfaces used to analyze and manipulate genomic databases. They collaborate with Production to develop high-throughput data processing and analysis capability and to design and implement data queries, novel algorithms and/or visualization techniques. Analyst/programmers also maintain large-scale DNA databases, prepare data for other scientists, monitor new data from public databases, and clean loaded data to satisfy quality control criteria.

The bioinformatics scientist/engineer job is one of biotech's hot new jobs. It requires expertise in any one of several basic scientific disciplines as well as knowledge of programming languages and databases. Scientist/engineers develops gene discovery algorithms for integrating sequence-based/functional knowledge about genes to help scientists analyze and interpret gene-expression data. They also analyze DNA information and identify opportunities for innovative solutions to analyze and manage biological data. In addition, they often assist in developing software and custom scripts to automate data retrieval, manipulation, and analysis; application of statistics, and visualization tools.

The molecular modeler job is focused on using computational techniques to help identify biologically active molecular structures. Molecular modelers support a company's discovery research by applying computational techniques to identify and optimize the number of hit/lead compounds. They also use their expertise in the molecular modeling of small molecules to contribute to rational drug design. Molecular modelers need a PhD degree in chemistry, biochemistry, computational chemistry, medicinal chemistry or a related field and at least 5 years of industrial experience, especially the molecular modeling of small molecules for rational drug design. Acquiring skills in commercial modeling software packages, database searching, docking and scoring functions, systems administration and programming are recommended. The salary range for the bioinformatics track is from about $60,000 to $100,000.

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