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Biology and Life Science

How are humans different from other animals? How does sugar consumption impact the onset of diabetes? If you find these types of questions appealing, you may want to explore the field of biology and life sciences.
“Careers in life science are often very specialized. You may choose to work with specific groups of organisms, or you may choose to work within a biological system of an organism. One of the overall benefits of a career in life science is the contribution to the betterment of the world.” (Spotlight on Careers – Life Science)

Colgate Professional Network

To provide an opportunity for those working and with an interest in the sciences to connect, the STEM Network brings together the Colgate community in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Biology and Life Sciences Advisor

Head shot of James Reed, techology advisor
Read about James
James joined Colgate Career Services in September 2014 as a Career Advisor with a focus on the STEM disciplines. Prior to his arrival at Colgate James was employed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he served as an Associate Director and Lecturer in the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development.

James earned an Ed.M. degree in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies with a concentration in Student Affairs Administration from the University at Buffalo and a BA in History from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo. James brings to Colgate more than ten years of experience working with college students in a variety of capacities including, leadership education, curriculum design and assessment, community development, and one-on-one coaching. He enjoys helping students bridge their interests and passions with their professional goals to find a sense of fulfillment and success.

Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, James resides in Syracuse and is excited to enjoy the diverse array of outdoor recreational activities that Central New York has to offer.

Questions

Call 315-228-7380 for an advising appointment.

Explore Careers

Industry functions
Potential roles in life science with a Baccalaureate degree and 0-4 years of experience may include:

Laboratory or Research Assistant
This type of position can be found in any of the employment sectors and is typically lab-based.  Common tasks include: performing laboratory tasks and experiments under the supervision of other laboratory staff, making and recording detailed observations, analyzing data and interpreting results, maintaining laboratory equipment, and performing inventory.

Science Liaison
The purpose of this type of position is to facilitate and develop relationships between scientists and the greater community.  This type of position is not typically lab-based and is often found in medical, government, and industry settings.  Common tasks include: communicating product-related information to investigators and institutions, providing information on research developments and new concepts in medical treatment, giving perspective to field activities associated with growing existing products, and bringing new products to market.

Quality Control Analyst
Positions in quality control are designed to ensure safety standards are maintained.  These positions are most commonly found in government, industry, and healthcare, and are often lab-based.  Common tasks include: conducting analysis of raw materials, in-process samples, and finished formulations according to standard operating procedures, calibrating and maintaining chemistry and microbiology lab equipment, and compiling and analyzing data for test procedure documentation.

Documentation Specialist
This type of position is designed to ensure proper processes are documented accurately.  Positions such as this are often found in government, industry, healthcare, and academic organizations.  Common tasks include: coordinating all activities related to providing required documentation systems and reviewing and revising procedures, specifications, and forms.

Technician (Biological or Chemical)
This type of position is a lab-based entry-level opportunity often found in industry or government.  Common tasks include: assisting scientists who conduct medical research, helping develop and manufacture medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations, analyzing organic substances, and conducting chemical or physical lab tests.

Environmental Health Specialist
This type of position may be lab or field-based and is often found in government, academic, and industrial organizations. Common tasks include: conducting research or performing investigations for the purpose of identifying, abating, or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect either the environment or the health of the population.  They may also collect, synthesize, study, report, and take action based on data derived from measurements or observations of air, food, soil, water, and other sources.
Further exploration
  • Careers in the Biological Sciences – Career paths in the biological sciences from the American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • What Can I Do with this Major? – Biological Sciences – lists areas of employment, types of employers and information/strategies for several type of biology majors
  • Vault Industry Guides: Log in or create an account (you will need to create an account using your Colgate e-mail address to view this content) and then find “Biology and Life Sciences” through the search box or in Industries & Professions – There are links to pages for many specific professions at the bottom of these pages

Prepare for Jobs and Internships

Information, tips, and strategies to help prepare you as an undergraduate.
General Tips
  • Learn laboratory procedures and become familiar with equipment.
  • Obtain summer, part-time, volunteer, co-op, or internship experience to test the fields of interest and gain valuable experience. Take independent research classes if possible.
  • Participate in summer research institutes. Submit research to local poster competitions or research symposiums.
  • Develop strong analytical, computer, mathematics, and communications skills.
  • Join professional associations and community organizations to stay abreast of current issues in the field and to develop networking contacts.
  • Read scientific journals related to your area of interest.
  • Maintain a high grade point average to improve chances of graduate and professional school admission.
  • Become familiar with the specific entrance exam for graduate or professional schools in your area of interest.
  • Secure strong relationships and personal recommendations from professors and/or employers.
  • Consider completing a post-doctoral experience after graduate school.
  • Learn federal, state, and local government job application process.
  • Gain experience with grant writing and fundraising techniques. Often research must be funded in this manner.
(source: from What Can I Do with this Major? – Biological Sciences)
Résumé advice
Spotlight on Careers – includes industry specific content, action verbs, and transferable skills to strengthen your life sciences résumé (for username and password, please contact Career Services).
Skills
  • Observation: one must be able to observe and make assessments from demonstrations and experiments.
  • Time/project management: one must be able to organization their work and adhere to deadlines.
  • Problem solving and critical thinking: one must be able to obtain, retrieve, analyze, integrate, and synthesize information from multiple sources efficiently and accurately.
  • Accurate data collection, recording, analysis, and reporting.
  • Ability to gather and process data, draw appropriate conclusions, and communicate those conclusions in a convincing presentation
  • Clear and concise technical writing.
  • Familiarity with laboratory procedures, equipment, and protocols.
  • Ability to communicate effectively and work collaboratively in a team.
  • Spotlight on Careers – includes life sciences specific sample interview questions to prepare for interviews (for username and password, please contact Career Services).
Industry news and trends
Knowledge of industry news can give you a sense of the culture and make you a better interview candidate.

Collaboration among scientists across disciplines and even across international borders is on the rise. One indication is the growing number of co-authored papers by an international cohort of authors. In 1988, only 8 percent of science and engineering papers were co-authored by an international team; by 2012 that number reached more than 25 percent worldwide, according to the National Science Foundation. This trend of collaboration has given rise to an increasing need for scientists to take an interdisciplinary approach to research by acquiring communication and problem-solving skills, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (Source: CareerBeam, First Research)

For the most recent news in the life sciences visit the BioSpace website.
Professional associations
These organizations can be great places to make connections, learn more about the field and search openings. Many have discounted student memberships.
  • Bio-Link – links to biotechnology educational, organizational, and industry websites
  • American Society for Microbiology – ASM’s mission is to advance science as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to promote the use of microbiological knowledge for improved health, economic, and environmental well-being.
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – promotes the understanding of the molecular nature of life processes and their includes useful career information, as well as fellowship and research opportunities.
Graduate school
Advancement in life science typically requires a graduate or professional degree.  Many choose to pursue a PhD or MD at some point in their career, although options are available at the Master's level and within applied disciplines.(Source: Spotlight on Careers)

Tips from Biomedical Graduate School: A planning guide to the admissions process by David J. McKean and Ted R. Johnson:
  • Strive to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 during your undergraduate studies.
  • Review pre-requisites and admissions requirements for your preferred programs and consult with a faculty member at your college early in your education to formulate a plan to maximize your undergraduate experience.
  • Do research as an undergraduate.  Some programs will require it for admission, and if not then it will be an application enhancement.
  • Gain experience in related areas.  Activities that demonstrate intellectual maturity, curiosity, work ethic, and motivation can have a positive impact on being accepted.
For general information see our Graduate and Professional Schools page.

Alumni Advice

Tips and advice from alumni working in this industry.
Headshot of Pete Rand '87
Current Title and Organization:
Research Ecologist, Prince William Sound Science Center

Major at Colgate: Biology
Q&A with Pete
  • What are your major responsibilities? Scientific research in ecology, specializing in fisheries and aquatic sciences.

  • What was your first position out of Colgate and what did you do in that role?
    I began a Masters program at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forest in Syracuse. I studied fish communities in the Laurentian Great Lakes.
  • How can students prepare themselves while at Colgate to work in your field?
    Internships are very important. I included a research internship as part of the Montana Study Group at Colgate. That helped me understand what it is like to be an ecologist, and gave me some much needed direction.

Find Opportunities

Recruiting timeline
Positions in the field of biology and life science are posted on an as needed basis. Typically, organizations recruit for entry level positions most heavily in September – October and again in February – March.
Job and internship search sites

naviGATE Opportunities

Below are some opportunities that may interest you from naviGATE, Colgate's internship and job database.

More Opportunities

The Liberal Arts Career NetWORK (LACN) and Nationwide Internships Consortium (NIC) are databases of internships and entry-level jobs posted by employers interested in hiring liberal arts students.
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