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Exploring the diversity of biotech careers

Documenting life on the job at Biotechnology Careers.org

by Hallie Golden

An average day during Elizabeth Stahl’s internship meant documenting the fermentation process. During the lifetime of an individual “Ferm,” she takes samples every 12 hours, with the first two getting a yeast count, and determing each sample’s pH, Brix reading, NIR readings and temperature. Stahl also ran the ion exchange (IC) everyday to determine sulfate levels in the 200 proof and final ethanol product. In between testing fermentation and product, she collected samples to check the levels of solids.

            A recent graduate of the Biotechnology program at Madison Area Technical College, Stahl worked as a laboratory intern at Valero Renewable Fuels. She is one of the many community college graduates interviewed for the Photo journals at Bio-Link’s Biotech-Careers.org site who tell viewers about their work in the biotech field. Biotech-Careers.org is a vital resource when it comes to preparing for life after college. If only all higher education programs would have a resource like this, there would be far fewer seniors panicking come graduation time.

            The purpose of Biotech-Careers.org is to show potential students, current students and recent graduates what they can do with a degree or certificate in biotechnology from a community or technical college. Right off the bat, its highly comprehensive homepage has a very valuable tool. It is a search tool that allows you to explore potential careers that you might be qualified for simply by entering in either education level, job area or starting salary. Once you choose which to search by, it will take you to a page devoted to jobs that fit the bill. For example, if I choose Medical diagnostics as the field I’m interested in, then it will take me to a page completely devoted to it, including a brief summary of it, the careers in it and a list of videos about it.

            Another section of Careers is called Resources. This gives viewers opportunities beyond the walls of Bio-link to learn about the biotech industry and education leading up to it. There is the College Navigator, which is a database run by the Department of Education where viewers can learn about almost every college in the nation. There is also a link to a website called MyPathCareers.org, which has a plethora of insight, including photo diaries, about careers in Oregon. The final two links are for Bio-Link’s LinkedIn group and a website called Pathways to Science, which it says allows you to “look at an area that interests you and select the link to view internships by educational level.”

            The Videos page of the Biotech-Careers.org takes you inside the world of many different biotech careers. It offers an A to Z look at everything from Agricultural biotechnology and Animal biotechnology to Vaccines and Water Quality. Each gives viewers a lot of information about what it means to work in the business and what the company looks for in those they hire. In the Animal biotechnology video, for instance, it interviews an Animal Research Facility Manager who is in charge of 15 different buildings that hold animal facilities.

            Each of these resources on Biotech-Careers.org is an invaluable tool. Having the chance to learn about recent graduates like Stahl, who was able to become a lab intern, or people in positions like the Animal Research Facility Manager, is essential for those attempting to navigate their way into the biotech workforce. You might say it is the difference between navigating with a blindfold on or off.

Bio-Link Program: 
Madison Area Technical College

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