Plant Tissue Culture Technician

Plant tissue culture technicians work in laboratory environments and use aseptic (sterile) technique to propagate plants.

Fast Facts & Skills

Details

Education & Training: 

At a minimum, plant tissue culture technician jobs require an Associates degree in biotechnology or a related field.  More advanced positions require a Bachelors degree.   Some more advanced positions are plant breeder and lead cultivator.

Degrees or certificates in the following areas are helpful:  

  • Horticulture
  • Botany
  • Plant Biology
  • Agronomy

Common requirements and abilities:

  • Demonstrable ability to perform molar calculations and basic algebra
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving capabilities
  • Ability to follow detailed, multistep, written, and verbal instructions
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Ability to manage several projects and prioritize time and resources according to department goals

Plant tissue culture technicians take clippings from plants and grow them on agar media in sterile containers.  Plant cultures are often subcultured on new media. This process is called micropropagation. Growing plants in a sterile environment allows growers to mass produce certain types of plants and prevents transmission of disease. Growing plants in tissue culture also allows growers to produce clones.  When plants are produced through cloning, they are better able to maintain their genetic characteristics because they avoid pollination.

This type of work is performed in a laminar flow hood to prevent contamination from bacteria or fungi. In some cases, technicians also grow plant cells in culture in a bioreactor.

It should be noted that many plants and plant products are regulated.  Technicians must be aware of and comply with industry regulations and certification requirements.

Biotechnology-related skills and knowledge are important in plant tissue culture.  Plant technicians should understand traceability and logistics. They are likely to be involved in planting, maintaining, and evaluating plants for disease resistance and other traits.  They will be expected to keep follow SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), to keep exact, detailed records, and collect data.  They will probably be asked to enter data in spreadsheets and analyze that data. Some employers ask that technicians be proficient in cloud-based electronic notebook software and platforms like Google Suite (Mail, Docs, Sheets, and Drive).

Plant tissue culture technicians may be in charge of maintaining an inventory of chemicals, media, and stock solutions, and safely disposing chemical and biological waste.  They may also be expected to order the supplies and reagents needed for conducting experiments and growing plants and to keep detailed records of all orders.

In many cases, plant tissue culture technicians will prepare agar media and stock solutions and use an autoclave to sterilize media.  

Since plant tissue culture technicians often work as part of team, a positive attitude and the ability to communicate effectively with team members are desirable. 

Plant tissue culture technicians with more advanced degrees (Bachelors, Masters, PhD) will be in charge of designing experiments and research projects and may be in charge of supervising others.  Some roles will require experience with greenhouses and indoor growing operations. It is helpful for plant tissue culture technicians to have experience in horticulture, plant biology, and genetics. Plant tissue culture technicians might be expected to recognize the signs of plant disease and be able to identify important traits.

Alternate career names:  plant tissue culture assistant, plant tissue culture specialist.

Where to Work and Learn

Example Employers: 

InnovATEBIO programs offer degrees, certificates, or teach skills in these related areas.

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