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A Day in the Life: Robert Smith, Entry-Level Biotech Scientist

8:15 a.m.: I arrive at work and check my e-mail, then plan the day. I usually have tocommunicate with the operations group (they run the high-throughput screens) to check on the status of ongoing. High-throughput screening involves using software, robotics, sensitive detectors, and other automated technology to quickly test substances. This is one of the first steps in drug development and a key tool to ascertain biological or biochemical activity of a large number of drug-like compounds. 

9:15 a.m.: I go to the lab after about an hour to check on samples left overnight (for example, to see if a drug crystallized), characterize samples from the previous afternoon to integrate the data collected the previous day, and characterize new samples that have come in that day.

12:00 p.m.: My company runs presentations during lunch, where we learn what else is going on both within the company and with the “Big Pharma” companies who supply us with compounds. Speakers might be a group member from a different group giving an update, a patent lawyer briefing us on legal issues in patent protection, or a member of the products group describing ongoing product development work.

1:00 p.m.: I do data analysis at my desk (e.g., powder X-ray diffraction, differential screening calorimetry, thermal gravimetric analysis.

3:00 p.m.: I attend a group meeting (my group has six members) to update our supervisor on the status of projects, either independent projects or larger projects that have several team members. My supervisor will ask questions and give advice on running further experiments or recommending additional data points to be collected. He also gives us a heads up on what compounds are coming in during the next few weeks. This gives us an idea of the workload in the group.

4:00 p.m.: I update my lab notebook with either data collected that day or experiments started. Then I get started on experiments that can be set up and run overnight.

5:00 p.m.: I prepare for weekly meetings with the entire solid state chemistry group (15 members). Typically, I make a PowerPoint presentation using tables and charts of data, a summary, and discussion points.

5:30 p.m.: I head home.