Biology Lab Assistant Job Description
Biology lab assistants work primarily to assist biology scientists with their research and experiments. They may also work with college professors to teach university courses, grade student work, and help with in-house research. Biology lab assistants are highly scientific and approach problems with logic and critical thinking. They typically work either in laboratory or education settings, and most often work regular office hours. However, they may be required to work overtime during time-sensitive experiments. Depending on where they work, biology lab assistants report directly to a scientist or biology professor.
Biology Lab Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
While a biology lab assistant’s day-to-day responsibilities are determined by the lab or university where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:
Set Up Lab Equipment
A biology lab assistant sets up the lab equipment necessary to perform the scientists’ upcoming experiment. They either read preliminary experiment documentation or speak directly with the scientists to know what equipment is needed.
Log Experiment Details and Results
Documentation is necessary throughout the duration of a lab experiment, and it is the responsibility of biology lab assistants to perform this documentation. They write experiment details and results with precision and clarity so they can be translated properly in the official lab report.
Assist Scientists or Professors
In general, biology lab assistants are responsible for assisting scientists or professors with whatever they need. This can include mundane tasks like organizing reports or fetching coffee, or it can include providing opinions based on their knowledge and experience.
Clean Up Lab and Equipment
After an experiment has been completed, it is the biology lab assistant’s responsibility to clean up the laboratory and the used equipment. This may also include recalibrating lab machines so they are ready for the next experiment.
Write Lab Reports
Biology lab assistants are responsible for writing much of an official lab report. This includes translating notes taken during the experiment process and creating a general structure outline for the entire lab report.
Biology Lab Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Biology lab assistants are passionate about their field of study and possess the education to match their passion. They have at least a bachelor’s degree and may hold an advanced degree. Biology lab assistants also demonstrate the following skills and qualifications:
- Analytical skills – biology lab assistants are highly analytical, and they can think of all the moving pieces of an experiment during their analysis
- Logical thinking – biology lab assistants think logically so they can find creative solutions to the problems they are trying to solve during their experiments
- Lab experience – biology lab assistants with previous lab experience are particularly successful in gaining employment. Familiarity with standard lab procedures and safety is incredibly helpful
- Organization skills – organization goes a long way in the laboratory, and biology lab assistants must demonstrate a high level of organization so they can keep their experiments on track
- Attention to detail – plenty of little things can be missed during an experiment, but biology lab assistants catch them before they cause problems. Their attention to detail is essential to the success of the experiment
Tools of the Trade
Biology lab assistants use a variety of tools during their daily job duties, including the following:
- Biology lab equipment (lab glassware, microscopes, centrifuges)
- Microsoft Office Suite (especially Word and Excel)
Biology Lab Assistant Education and Training
Biology lab assistants must possess a high level of education before gaining employment. At the bare minimum, successful biology lab assistants possess a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field, but many employers require candidates to possess a master’s degree before hiring them.
Biology lab assistants receive comprehensive on-the-job training that includes learning how to use the lab’s specific equipment and getting caught up to speed on the current and upcoming experiments or research tasks.
Biology Lab Assistant Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists biology lab assistants under the biological technician category. As such, biology lab assistants can expect to make an average median salary of around $44,000 per year. However, biology lab assistants with more education and experience may make as much as $70,000 per year, while those just starting out may make as little as $30,000 per year. Biology lab assistants usually receive a healthy benefits package that includes health insurance, paid time off, and performance incentives.
The BLS reports a high growth outlook for biology lab assistants – 10 percent growth over the next 10 years. The high demand for medical and biological research is causing a greater need for biology lab assistants.
Check out some of the following resources to learn more about the role of a biology lab assistant:
ScienceDaily: Biology News – ScienceDaily is a well-known website that contains a vast amount of information for anyone interested in any field of scientific study. However, the website also contains a biology news section that focuses purely on biological subjects. The blog is updated regularly and features reports on recent breakthroughs and studies
The Company of Biologists – this organization is “dedicated to supporting and inspiring the biological community” through journals, grants, events, and more. Newcomers to the field may be interested in visiting its website to learn more about the profession as a whole
The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA – this book documents the incredible discovery of DNA, the building block of all biological life. Every biology lab assistant should understand this discovery and the impact it made on the field
The Origin of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition – this book revolutionized the entire course of science. Written by Charles Darwin in the 1800s, the book focuses on the idea that “species derive from other species” and only survive if they are the fittest species. This text is essential reading for any biologist so they can understand the basis of the entire field of biology
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