Research Assistant - Graduate Student

The image shows Elizabeth, a graduate of Madison College, WI, working in the Biological Safety Cabinet. In this photo, she was getting ready to stimulate the cells with fresh media and extract metabolites from them two hours later. Her next day would be dedicated to separating the extracts through the HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography machine) and Mass Spec.

1. Where did you attend college and what degees (or certificates) did you complete?
I have a B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Molecular Biology, and I completed the Post-Baccalaureate Biotech Certificate from Madison College, WI.
2.  What you do for your job?
I'm a PhD student in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at UW-Madison. My job title is Research Assistant. I am studying neurobiology, in particular the mechanisms behind myelin regeneration.

3.  What are some techniques that you commonly use?
Cell culture. I do tons of cell culture:

  • growing cells,
  • passaging cells,
  • transfecting cells,
  • freezing cells,
  • extracting proteins and metabolites from cells.

I mostly work with cancer cell lines. I also do lots of Western Blotting and Bradford Assays. 

4. What advice would you give someone who is interested in a biotech career?
My biotech certificate has been essential in my lab positions and rotations. I've been able to walk into each lab and get right to work. While different labs have slightly different techniques, I haven't had any problems getting work done, even in one lab where I was pretty much left on my own to get my work done. It also helped me get a job in a research lab before I applied to grad school.
5. Is there anything you'd like to add?
My best advice would be to volunteer or get a job in a lab while still in school, and even try out more than one lab if you can. Each lab has a different culture and way of doing things. I've learned something new from each lab I've been in, little tricks and tips for being more efficient. Making connections with people in the industry you're interested in can really help you when you're applying for jobs.

  • Working in the biological safety cabinet