Stem Cell Research

What makes stem cell research an interesting career now?

You have probably heard media sound bites on the controversy over stem cell research, but you might want to know why it is such an interesting career option now. The reason is simply that stem cell research is still in its infancy and there are reports of a shortage of professionals in this field already.

Stem cell history goes back to the mid-1800's when scientists made the discovery that certain types of cells could create other cells. Further discoveries in the 1900's, including the transplantation of bone marrow, eventually led to the first successful isolation

The stem cell researcher's job involves learning about a cell's basic properties and the characteristics that differentiate one specialized cell from another. There are different types of stem cells with varying potential for replication to repair or replace damaged tissues which, of course, could improve the quality of life for many people. The list of unanswered questions about how these cells can be so malleable, how they go about regenerating healthy tissue, and what structures in the body can utilize stem cells is endless. Each new discovery begs more questions. And, that's good news for you if a career in stem cell research is capturing your attention.

What are they and where are stem cells found?

Every human body contains stem cells that allow the body to regenerate tissue. Many of these tissues are naturally renewed on a regular basis just like blood, bone marrow, and skin. However, not all tissues have a stem cell. Scientists do not yet have a complete understanding of exactly which organs have stem cells.

Stem Cells can be taken from adult tissue or an embryo. Embryonic cells continuously divide and have the ability to develop into a wide variety of cell types. They are not mature cells of one specific type, so they are cultivated to become cells of a specified tissue or organ. Research shows that embryonic stem cells are easier to harvest and also have a far greater ability to reproduce as different types of cells than those in the adult. However, adult stem cells do offer a lot of research potential and, when a person's own cells are used, have a distinct advantage, as rates of rejection by the immune system are much lower. Adult cells have shown a limited potential for the number of different types of cells they develop. They also lack the ability possessed by the embryonic cell to divide over an indefinite period of time. However, just a few years ago, scientists were successful in converting adult skin cells into stem cells that have capabilities similar to embryonic cells. Researchers are not sure how dynamic this reprogramming can become, but are actively investigating the potential of this new discovery.

How are stem cells used?

At this time in the history of stem cell research, the biomedical opportunities appear endless and researchers are aggressively pursuing a wide range of research paths. However, the process requires scientific methods and can be slow. One primary area of focus is an initiative to discover a way to reverse juvenile diabetes (also called type 1 diabetes) by using stem cells to develop insulin-producing beta cells for people whose pancreas does not produce insulin. Another important target is cancer therapy. For example, a patient with multiple myeloma can have her own stem cells harvested from her blood before a course of chemotherapy, then transplanted back into her blood stream to begin reproducing healthy plasma cells. Some scientists believe that eventually stem cell technology will allow us to use our own stem cells to regenerate organs that may begin to fail, even before full-blown disease strikes.

Why is this a hot topic in political conversations?

In the short history of stem cell research, regulation has been hotly debated and several United States presidents have been involved in decisions regarding research access to unused fertility clinic embryos and the availability of federal funding. Attitudes, policies, and laws vary considerably from one country to another and it appears that it will continue to be a contentious issue in many parts of the world.

Some people feel strongly that there are serious ethical issues related to the use of human cells—primarily embryonic stem cells—in research. Some opponents believe that human life begins with the fertilized egg and any use of young embryos is immoral. Other opponents fear that the use of stem cells will lead us to human cloning.

Proponents of this research believe that the benefits of using surplus fertility clinic embryos that could aid research to reduce disabling chronic diseases for millions of people is far better than simply discarding them.

There are many ways to view the pros and cons. And, the issue can become very personal and subjective. For example, would the parent of a child with juvenile diabetes change his position on the issue if research proves that his child's health and quality of life could be improved with stem cell therapy? There are no easy answers, but it appears that the full significance of stem cell therapy is just beginning to unfold. While career opportunities in this arena are increasing rapidly, regulatory policy and funding sources for stem cell research may not stabilize for a number of years.

Request Information from Regenerative Medicine Colleges

The regenerative medicinel research degree programs you need in order to get your career started is listed below among many schools, colleges, and universities. This page was designed to provide you a resource to find what you need quickly and efficiently. Request information from several of the regenerative medicine schools, colleges, and universities below in order to find the right program for you.

How to Become a Stem Cell Researcher

How can I become a stem cell researcher?

It may surprise many people that high school educators in the state of California have partnered with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to add 'Stem Cell 101' to high school curriculum offerings there. The course is geared to all interest levels, from those who are exploring a career in science to students who just want to learn more about stem cell research. It is becoming increasingly easier to begin your career in this dynamic field.

  1. Read professional journal articles about the field to begin to identify your level of interest in the field. And, it will help you to focus your interest in the scientific discipline and type of degree you might like to pursue. Finally, learning more in advance will also help you identify your personal position on the ethical and political aspects of stem cell research and therapy.
  2. Consider your personal strengths and your interests when choosing your profession within the field of stem cell research. If you are skilled in mathematics and enjoy statistics, you would be well-suited for biostatistics jobs. If you got your first little biology lab for Christmas when you were eight years old and love to spend time in the laboratory, you may consider pursuing molecular or cellular biology jobs. If you aren't sure which degree is best for you, seek the help of a college counselor who is familiar with the field of stem cell research.
  3. Enroll in a school that offers a bachelor's degree in your chosen field of study. Consider electives that could help propel your career, such as communications or technical writing.
  4. Seek lab internships or part-time jobs in organizations already doing stem cell research. You may find a company that offers tuition reimbursement benefits or educational grant opportunities.
  5. Earn a Master's degree in a specialized or advanced study area in your chosen profession. An additional advantage to enrolling in a specialty Master's degree program, like bioengineering or stem cell technology, is the potential for doing stem cell research in the laboratory experiential as well as having the opportunity to network with other professionals in the field.
  6. Find a job that offers a rewarding career, including advancement if that's part of your long-term goal.
  7. Attend conferences and continually build on your knowledge base in this dynamic and developing industry.

What makes stem cell research an interesting career now?

Individuals pursuing stem cell research jobs can come from many different scientific disciplines—including biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, biophysics, and biostatistics. Additional career paths will include physicians, nurses, and genetic scientists.

In many laboratories, teams of scientists are working collaboratively to solve the many unanswered questions about stem cells, including their characteristics and their potential value. This means that it is likely that your career in this field will allow you to work in partnership with scientists from other disciplines. This could add an interesting element to your research practice.

What employment settings offer positions in stem cell research?

Stem cell researchers might find employment in any number of organizations, including a government research center, university, pharmaceutical company, healthcare provider organization, private stem cell research company, private hospital, cancer research institute, or public bioinstrumentation company. Each organization could be playing a different part in the overall picture. For example, some private companies create stem cell lines, pharmaceutical companies can use stem cells for safety studies on new drugs, and many other initiatives could be formed to study disease treatment. Some hospitals have opened specialized centers for Cell and Gene Therapy or Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation. There are news reports of an anticipated shortage of physicians to work in transplantation and this shortage will continue unless more physicians choose stem cell therapy and transplantation as a clinical specialty.

It is possible to get a position as a laboratory research assistant with a bachelor of science degree if you have appropriate laboratory skills. However, the greatest need will be for researchers with advanced degrees. A Master of Science (MS) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in your chosen field will open up options that could include biotechnology jobs and high level research and management responsibilities.

For those who are interested in writing, it may be helpful to complete courses in technical writing as an elective. Because stem cell research is in its infancy, there will be a tremendous need to publish research discoveries, the results of human clinical trials, and treatment success stories.

As a stem cell researcher, you may also be asked to share your knowledge with other scientists, healthcare clinicians, or the public. The movement to promote education to help correct some of the misconceptions and reduce fears related to stem cell research and therapy is gaining momentum. By acquiring some experience in public speaking, you can help spread the message of your important work and add a dynamic element to a fascinating career.

Biotechnology Education and Career Training

A degree in biotechnology requires the blending of skills and principles learned from engineering, medicine, biology, and biochemistry. Biotechnology is the science that is focused on the modification of organisms. The development of an implantable glucose sensor for patients with diabetes is a bioengineering example of the utilization of sensor design principles. Biotechnologists utilize engineering tools and techniques to solve challenges in medicine and biological sciences on the molecular and cellular level, so there is a close relationship between molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry. An example of the use of biotechnology would be the manipulation of the genes of one organism to achieve a desired trait by embedding that gene into a second organism.

What degree is needed to work as a biotechnologist?

While there are many good colleges, universities, and technical schools that offer degrees in biotechnology, not all colleges and

A Master of Science (MS) or doctoral (PhD) program in Biotechnology includes course work in genomics, DNA & protein sequence analysis, biomaterials, statistical methods in computational biology, and biotechnology regulations. Dual MS degrees in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics are also available at some universities. Alternatively, if you are interested in a Master's level program that is designed to educate you in the ways of business management and regulatory affairs, you may want to consider a dual degree in biotechnology and business administration.

Where can a biotechnologist expect to find employment?

Within the context of regenerative medicine, biotechnology jobs can be found in public or private companies, universities, governmental institutes, or healthcare facilities. These careers could involve basic or applied stem cell research. Biotechnologists can work as biological, medical, or materials scientists and the employment demand is expected to continue because progress in advanced technology means continual change within the field.

What can a biotechnologist expect to earn?

Reported earnings for biotechnologists vary widely according to the level of education, specialty knowledge and experience, and employing industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 2007 starting salaries for those entering the field averaged $42,744. The median salary for biotechnologists was $77,400.

What are the advancement opportunities in biotechnology?

In a young, cutting-edge scientific field that is developing at a rapid rate, there is almost limitless potential for career advancement. In addition to opportunities for supervisory or management positions in your laboratory department, more responsible research positions can be acquired with advanced degrees. Master of Science (MS) and doctoral degrees (PhD) are available in both disciplines.

What skills should a biotechnologist possess?

In addition to experience, a biotechnologist must have a heightened attention to detail, excellent computer skills, curiosity for new developments in the field, and good communication skills. Having an interest or curiosity about instrumentation is very helpful. Laboratory work as a student and an employee may be spent using a wide variety of instruments, including (but certainly not limited to) advanced microscopes, spectroscopic equipment, incubators for cell growth, imaging units, biomedical pumps, and laser equipment.

Molecular and Cellular Biology Careers

What is the role of the biologist in stem cell research?

A biologist is a scientist who works in a wide variety of areas focused on the understanding of living organisms and their relationship to their environment. Molecular biology is the study of life at the molecular level and its interactions between the various systems of the cell. Cellular biologists are interested in the structure of the cell, its life cycle, division, and death. There is a lot of cross-over in the knowledge and discipline of these two sciences so this means that a degree is molecular and cellular biology will be very useful if stem cell biology is your primary interest.

According to the National Institutes of Health, "stem cell research is one of the most fascinating areas of contemporary biology." All degrees are science-based and, therefore, require classroom and laboratory time. If you are interested in working in stem cell

What types of degrees are available to aspiring biologists?

One effective way to enter the field and be considered for stem cell research jobs is to earn a bachelor of science (BS) degree in general biology with an emphasis in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Some universities may offer a BS in biochemistry combined with molecular biology because there is a close connection between molecular structure and the biochemistry of living systems. Any BS degree that includes course work in molecular or cellular biology or biochemistry is a good place to begin.

A Master of Science (MS) degree in a Molecular and Cellular Biology program typically requires 30-36 credit hours and can include specialty courses like cancer biology, genome biology, and immunology. Some educational institutions combine molecular and cell biology with developmental biology for a curriculum that would include courses in the developmental and reproductive processes. Students interested in the biological sciences should begin taking courses in advanced mathematics, general chemistry, and physics in high school or as soon as possible.

Advanced degrees in stem cell biology are becoming available at the MS and doctoral (PhD) levels in many educational institutions. Course work will include advanced level courses in cell and molecular biology, tissue and cell engineering, as well as stem cell development for transplantation. Additional options commonly include study in advanced genetics, pharmacology, neuroscience, cancer biology, and biomedical ethics. Most MS and PhD programs require the development of a written thesis or dissertation, respectively, that is based on the student's original laboratory work and research.

What types of schools offer degrees in biology?

Biologists frequently discover their love for science when they take their first biology course in middle school or high school. Most state universities, private colleges, and technical schools offer undergraduate degrees in biology. For the biologist interested in a career in stem cell research, it may be most beneficial to explore educational facilities that have partnered with a laboratory that does stem cell research. While a full degree in biology is probably not available as an online program, there are relevant science courses that can be taken for elective credit toward a degree with a biology major.

Is certification or licensure required to work as a biologist?

Following graduation, the need for certification in this field will depend on the type of work you will do during your employment, as well as the type of facility and the state of your employment. Clinical laboratory scientist certification (formerly called medical laboratory technologist certification) is required for all biologists who work in a clinical laboratory facility that does any testing on a human specimen for diagnosis, assessment, or treatment related to health status. This could include a hospital or healthcare facility, a university laboratory, or an institute that does any evaluation of human tissue for clinical or therapeutic purposes. If you work for a governmental, public or private research institution or university and your work is purely done for research purposes, you may not need to be certified. There are many professional associations and state departments of health and human services that offer certification. It is common for colleges and universities or places of employment to provide complete certification and timing requirements for your locale and position.

Where can I find employment as a biologist?

Graduates from a 4-year program, and occasionally those with a 2-year associate degree, may find employment as technicians in a laboratory that does basic or applied research in a government institution, university, private research institute, or hospital. Many of these research facilities are focused on applied research which involves the challenge of finding solutions to an identified health problem. Other laboratories perform basic research on stem cells to continue the process of the identification of their structure, characteristics, and capacities for differentiation.

While a PhD is necessary for senior administrative positions, academic teaching, and independent research, there are many research and management jobs for scientists with an MS.

Due to the continual need for financial support in research, some biological scientists will be involved in the quest for funding, oftentimes through the submission of grant proposals to governmental agencies or private foundations. What can I expect to earn as a biologist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medial annual salary for a molecular or cellular biologist as $66,510. However, the range varies greatly from one geographical area to another, with the highest wages being estimated as $111,440 in Salinas, California. Because the job responsibilities and available funding vary greatly according to the type of employing organization, it is wise to study your options before making a firm decision to apply.

Training for Careers in Biostatistics

What type of work does a biostatistician perform?

A biostatistician is a degreed statistician with additional education in the biological sciences which provides an understanding of the special needs in the science of healthcare. As medical research initiatives, healthcare services, and pharmaceutical industries have continued to expand, the need for biostatisticians has increased. Increasingly, computer software and statistical methods are being used to evaluate all types of healthcare data, to design and analyze clinical study data, and to evaluate the effectiveness of new pharmaceutical products.

Traditional and new biostatistical methods are used to identify the effectiveness and safety of stem cell transplants. With the

What degrees are needed to become a biostatistician?

Most biostatistics jobs begin with a general degree in statistics. Some training programs through colleges and universities offer an undergraduate biostatistics track for students who are interested in applying their knowledge and skills to the biological sciences. As the need to apply statistical methods in the health sciences has grown, specialized advanced degree programs in biostatistics have become more prevalent in a field that is still relatively new. If you already have an undergraduate degree in statistics, mathematics, engineering, or computer science, you will be well-prepared for a graduate degree in biostatistics. All graduate programs require you to have a good foundation in mathematics.

Some universities offer Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in biostatistics. At this level, your curriculum will include courses on probability, advanced mathematical statistics, experimental treatment design, survival data analysis, and statistical analysis software. An MS degree would require a minimum of 30-36 hours of course work, depending on the program at your chosen graduate school. A PhD will require 4-6 semesters plus 2-4 additional semesters to complete your dissertation. These higher degrees will provide course work that is rich in research design, methods, and theory. If you are interested in working in public health organizations or universities, an advanced degree would be required.

Where do biostatisticians work?

Jobs in biostatistics can be found in universities, governmental and private research institutions, pharmaceuticals firms, insurance companies, and many healthcare delivery organizations. The complex drug-approval process requires the professional assistance of a biostatistician at every step of the application process, including clinical trials, the fulfillment of approval requirements, and the post-marketing analysis. The evaluation of drug safety and efficacy data help doctors and other healthcare providers to decide which pharmacologic treatment is best for their patients. Biostatisticians develop statistical models for cure rates and survival rates of specific diseases according to individual chemotherapeutic and surgical treatments. This allows clinicians to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of potential modes of treatment. Biostatisticians play an important role in the development of experimental treatments. They also apply statistics to public health research work and interpret healthcare data in endless ways.

What type of salary can a biostatistician expect to earn?

Salaries can vary dramatically based on the employees experience level, the type of employer and the size of the organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that "median annual wages for statisticians were $69,900 in May 2007" and further reports a range of $38,140 to over $112.880. A brief informal survey of current job openings shows a salary range of $59,000 to $75,000 to start, reaching $132,000 to $150,000 for those with many years of experience and management responsibilities. Employee benefits are usually very good because many statistical positions are in large well-developed professional, governmental, or private organizations.

Stem Cell Research Schools