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Research scientist (life sciences): Job description

Research within life sciences covers a whole range of scientific disciplines including neurosciences, plant sciences, physiology, pharmacology, cancer studies, microbiology, genomics, bioinformatics, biotechnology and stem cell research. The work is close to the medical sciences but also crosses over into other areas such as biochemistry.

Researchers within this field are primarily involved in planning, conducting and analysing experiments, either with a definite end use (to develop new products, processes or commercial applications) or to broaden scientific understanding in general.

Although a researcher will usually carry out their experiments and research on their own, they will typically be part of a larger team and they will share their findings and relevant information with professional colleagues. This is sometimes done at international conferences or through the publication of research papers.

Research scientists work in commercial or government laboratories, hospitals and higher education institutions.

Typical work activities

The exact nature of the work depends on the level of seniority of a research post, the specific area of life sciences studied and also whether the context is industrial or academic. However, most life science researchers are involved in the following:

  • devising and conducting experiments;
  • processing and analysing results and data;
  • communicating results to the scientific community via published papers;
  • collaborating with industry/academia to apply the results of research and develop new techniques, products or practices;
  • presenting ongoing work and findings to colleagues at academic conferences, and summarising the nature of their research, their methodology and their findings;
  • carrying out field work to inform their research;
  • teaching, demonstrating to or supervising students (in academia) and training and supervising other members of staff;
  • devising or helping to draw up new research proposals and applying for funding and grants;
  • working in multidisciplinary teams (in academia, across different faculties or schools, and in industry, across different functions of the business).

Researchers in life sciences rely on peer reviews of their written publications and presentations in order to validate their theories and inform their research. They also need to keep abreast of the work of other scientists both within the life sciences arena and in the wider scientific community. Attendance at academic conferences across the world is considered part of the job, rather than an additional activity. Reading journals is another important aspect of their work.

 
 
AGCAS
Written by AGCAS editors
Date: 
June 2012
 
 

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