Careers in biomedical research provide an opportunity for discovery, and each day professionals in this broad field know they are making a difference in the lives of people and animals. Their work provides hope to millions suffering from medical conditions or diseases—hope for new and better treatments, hope for a better life, hope for a cure. Through their individual contributions, biomedical researchers have the potential to improve the lives of countless people and animals all over the world. From engineers to scientists, from nutritionists to computer scientists, and from technical writers to laboratory animal technicians, these people have chosen to accept the challenge to care. You can too—by choosing a career in the exciting, demanding, and rewarding field of biomedical research.
What is biomedical research?
Biomedical research is the broad area of science that is undertaken to gain knowledge and understanding of the biological processes and the causes of disease. Biomedical research is an evolutionary process that requires the input and participation of many professionals. Through careful experimentation, laboratory work, analysis, and testing, biomedical researchers look for ways to prevent, treat, and cure diseases that cause illness and death in people and in animals.
Who conducts biomedical research?
This broad field of research includes many important areas of both the life and physical sciences and requires a team of people drawn from different backgrounds and specialties. Such a team might include medical doctors, veterinarians, computer scientists, engineers, animal care technicians, research technicians, and a variety of scientists working together to study the biological processes of a disease in order to develop an effective treatment and search for a permanent cure. They design and conduct experiments that help them understand what causes the problems and to identify ways to either treat or cure the disease. Depending on their area of expertise, researchers investigate many conditions from spinal cord injuries to cancer, from viruses to antibiotics, and from asthma to diabetes. They seek to cure medical conditions and diseases that affect our families and friends, our pets, wildlife and zoo animals, and even ourselves.
What is laboratory animal science? Why is it important to biomedical research?
Laboratory animal science is the area of biomedical research that specializes in the care and study of animals used in medical research, testing, and teaching. Animals are a critical part of biomedical research for many reasons. Before scientists can develop ways to treat health conditions in both humans and in animals, they need to understand the situation. Researchers use animals to learn more about these conditions and to discover more effective methods for diagnosing, treating, and curing diseases that affect both humans and animals and to assure the safety of new medical treatments and procedures.
Scientists and medical researchers continue to look for ways to reduce the number of animals needed to obtain valid results, to refine experimental techniques, and to replace animals with other research methods. Currently, even the most sophisticated technology cannot mimic the complicated interactions occurring among cells, tissues, and organs in a living body; so, animals will continue to play an important, and irreplaceable, role until effective alternatives are found. Researchers remain devoted to providing the best care for these animals, which also strengthens valid and reliable research results.
What kinds of careers are there in biomedical research?
Depending on your interests and the field of science you like best, there are many career options in biomedical research!
How do I prepare for a career in biomedical research?
Start right now! For any career in biomedical research, a strong foundation in the life and physical sciences and math in high school is important. While some jobs in research require only a high school diploma, others need specific training, certification, or a college degree, and still others require education beyond the four-year college degree. It is important that you take advantage of all the classes your school offers in these areas.
Whether you plan on a career right out of high school or a career that requires a college or an advanced degree, make sure you have good grades, a strong grounding in the sciences and math, and good writing and communication skills. If attending college, talk with your high school guidance counselor to make sure you take all the required classes for entrance into an accredited college or university. College is competitive and can be expensive; getting good grades will increase your chances of being accepted into the college of your choice and of receiving scholarships.
Once you are in college, always work with your academic advisor to plan your course load to not only satisfy all graduation requirements, but to also gain exposure to the sciences relating to biomedical research. Knowing more about each field of science can better help you choose the specific area for your future career!
Many in biomedical research have gone onto graduate school after college and obtained advanced degrees. If you want to pursue a career that requires graduate school or a professional degree, keep in mind there are individualized requirements for specific college courses and entrance exams for graduate, medical, or veterinary school. Work with your academic advisor to ensure you are adequately prepared!
Not all careers in biomedical research require a college or advanced degree. Some careers in research require certification or specialized training instead of, or in addition to, college or graduate school. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) has both technician and management certification programs for those desiring to work caring for animals in the research field. For more information visit their website at www.aalas.org.