The societal impact of the genetic engineering revolution is only beginning to be felt in the marketplace, and most molecular biologists agree that the biotechnology industry is only in its infancy. Because of the need for substantial investment of venture capital for research and development of new products, and the long time and additional capital required to bring a product to market, many new companies have struggled and remained small. Many also have folded or have been acquired by larger companies. However, as more products are approved by federal regulatory agencies and begin to yield profits for the companies involved, it is likely that this industry will mature and expand significantly to provide excellent opportunities for students with training in the biological sciences and chemistry. Industries that are especially large and active developers of biotechnology include the pharmaceutical industry, food and natural products processing industries and agricultural (plant and animal) industries.
According to a USDA National Report, the shrinking supply of graduates is the most critical force that will affect the agricultural human resource market. Current enrollment in higher education programs that produce graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, and natural-resource disciplines suggests further erosion of the number of graduates who will become available in the near future. Thus, a market demand for graduates specialized in agricultural sciences appears to be on the rise. Areas that will have a shortage in qualified graduates include forestry, horticulture/ornamental horticulture, agronomy/soils, animal sciences, and food science/food industry. A successful career in agriculture is dependent on a solid training in biology. In addition to the basic requirements in the Biology Major, courses in plant biology (for example, Biol 3041, 3262, 4023, 4028) should be taken. For students interested in animal science, additional courses in animal physiology and development are desirable (for example, Biol 3110, 328, 4580). See Peterson's Guide for graduate programs in agriculture. Information on employment opportunities in agriculture is available from USDA, Washington, D.C. 20250 (http://www.ams.usda.gov/human).
Students with B.S. (or A.B.) and M.S. degrees can find numerous positions in which they do hands-on work at the lab bench. Such work may involve research and development, production or quality-control testing. Students interested in helping to formulate company policy, helping to choose company research directions or running a research project involving multiple scientists are likely to need a Ph.D. Some companies will subsidize (or pay for entirely) additional education for employees with B.S. degrees who wish to obtain an M.S. (or M.A.) degree at a nearby university. Students interested in biotechnology should develop a strong background in areas including genetics, molecular genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, and microbiology. These fields are mostly represented within Area 1/A of the advanced courses for the Biology major. However, two other courses that are particularly relevant are the Laboratory of DNA Manipulation (Biol 437) and Plant Biology and Genetic Engineering (Biol 3041). In addition, interested students should gain as much real-life laboratory experience as possible, earning Biol 200 and Biol 500 credits while pursuing an independent research project in a lab that uses the techniques of molecular biology. There are approximately 300 laboratories on the Hilltop and Medical School campuses that together form the Departments of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. The vast majority of these labs utilize the general tools of molecular biology while applying these tools to investigate a variety of biological processes and phenomena. It must be emphasized that with the tools of molecular biology (DNA, RNA and protein purification and analyses, DNA cloning, DNA sequencing, etc.) one can study a variety of problems in virtually any organism. Therefore, it is not as important to work on any single research problem as it is to gain basic training in the tools of the trade. Molecular Biology is both a science and a craft for which one must develop "good hands" at the research bench. As in any trade that requires skill and creativity, one develops "good hands" only through experience and practice. The biotechnology industry and graduate and medical schools preferentially accept students who develop these skills, can work independently with minimal supervision, and can obtain strong letters of recommendation from their research mentors. The campus Career Center, Career Information Days, advertisements in the back of journals such as Science, Nature, Cell, and local newspaper want ads are all good sources for current openings. In addition to the library and journals such as "Biotechnology," there are also sites on the internet that allow users to browse biotechnology information resources. Online job listings and career information are available at:
Business-Finance and Marketing
Supporting the scientific research endeavor is another industry in which students with a good background in biology and business can excel. The biotechnology industry needs people who combine management skills with knowledge of the biological basis of their industry. This industry supplies equipment, supplies, and reagents to labs within the universities, hospitals, companies and government agencies in which scientific research is conducted. Many salespeople in this industry must meet one-on-one with laboratory managers to sell their products, and first-hand knowledge of the uses of, and scientific bases for, the products they sell is a strong advantage in this competitive area. Biology students may want to consider a minor in business or economics to position themselves to excel in this industry, either in sales or management. Biology majors specifically interested in finance or marketing may complete a second major in one of these areas by taking a minimum of 24 credit hours of courses through the Olin School of Business. General requirements for a second major in either finance or marketing include MGT 100 (The Managerial Environment), MECO 290 (Microeconomics; or substitute Econ 103B plus Econ 401), QBA 120 (Managerial Statistics I, or substitute Math 2200 or 3200, Psych 406, SSM 325 or SSM 326), QBA 121 (Managerial Statistics II, or substitute Econ 413, Math 439 or Psych 407), ACCT 2610 (Principles of Financial Accounting) and ACCT 2620 (Principles of Managerial Accounting). Additional requirements for the Finance second major include FIN 340 (Capital Markets and Financial Management), FIN 442 (Options Pricing), either FIN 447 (Information Flow in Financial Markets) or FIN 448 (Advanced Financial Management), and at least two other advanced finance electives. Additional requirements for the Marketing second major include: (1) MKT 370 (Principles of Marketing), (2) MKT 480 (Marketing Strategy - Spring semester of senior year), and (3) at least three of the following, with at least one course from group A. Group A: MKT 377 (Consumer Behavior), MKT 470E (Pricing), MKT 473 (Marketing Research); Group B: MKT 373 (Retail Management), MKT 470 (Advertising Management), MKT 476 (Advanced Retail Management), MKT 477 (International Marketing). For advising on the business curriculum, contact the Olin School of Business (http://www.olin.wustl.edu).
With the sequencing of the human genome and development of high-throughput strategies to collect information on a genomic scale, we have a growing need to design new computational strategies for processing and analyzing biological data, particularly DNA and protein sequences. The application of information science to such problems is often called ‘bioinformatics.’ Other areas, such as biochemistry, cell physiology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology, increasingly need to use mathematical approaches and computer modeling. Such an approach is often termed “computational biology.” Training in computational biology ideally should include a major in biology with course work selected from the appropriate areas of interest, and training in mathematics and computer science. Recommended courses in computer science include CSE 131 (Computer Science I), CSE 201 (Formal Foundations of Computer Science), and CSE 241 (Algorithms and Data Structures). Recommended courses in mathematics include Math 2200 or 3200 (Elementary Probability and Statistics); Math 233 (Calculus III, required if you wish to take Physical Chemistry), Math 217 (Differential Equations), and Math 309 (Matrix Algebra). A student interested in bioinformatics would select biology courses from among biochemistry (Biol 451 or 4810), molecular biology (Biol 3371), molecular evolution (Biol 4183), and experimental methods (Biol 3491, Biol 3492, Biol 4342/434W, Biol 437, Biol 4520, Biol 4522). Computational biology is important also in the study of physiology of biological systems, including the nervous system, as covered in Biol 3151, Biol 328, Biol 3411, Biol 4030, and Biol 404. Because computational biology is a newly developing field, independent research (Biol 500) in bioinformatics is strongly recommended for anyone entering this specialty. The following sample program provides a biology major with strong training in computational biology (Biology major, bioinformatics orientation):
|Fall Semester||Spring Semester|
|Math 132 Calculus (3)||Math 233 Calculus (4)|
|Biology Seminar 118 (1)||Biology 2960 Biology I (3)|
|Chem 111 General Chemistry (3)||Chem 112 General Chemistry (3)|
|Chem 151 Gen Chem Lab (2)||Chem 152 Gen Chem Lab (2)|
|E Comp 100 Expository Writing (3)||Distribution requirement (3)|
|Distribution requirement (3)|
|Math 309 Matrix Algebra (3)||Math 217 Differential Equations (4)|
|Biol 2970 Biology II (4)||Biol 3XX Biology elective (3-4)|
|Chem 261 Organic Chem I (4)||Chem 262 Organic Chem II (4)|
|CSE 131 Computer Science I (4)||Distribution requirement (3)|
|Distribution requirement (3)|
|Biol 437 Lab on DNA Manipulation (4)||Biol 500 Independent Study (3)|
|Biol 3371 Eukaryotic Genomes (4)||Math 3200 Elem Prob & Statistics (3)|
|CSE 132 Computer Science II (3)||CSE 241 Algorithms & Data Structures (3)|
|Phys 117 General Physics I (4)||Phys 118 General Physics II (4)|
|Distribution requirement (3)||Distribution requirement (3)|
|Biol 500 Independent Study (3)|
|Biol 5495 Computational Molec Bio (3)||Biol 5496 Seminar in Computational Molecular Biology|
|Biol 4181 or 4183 Pop Gen or Mol Evol (3)||Biol 328 Principles in Human Physiology (4)|
|Biol 500 Independent Study (3)||Biol 500 Independent Study (3)|
|Distribution requirement (3)||Open (3)|
|Distribution requirement (3)||Distribution requirement (3)|
Environmental engineers take the skills and tools of engineers and apply them to environmental problem solving. Traditionally, environmental engineers have been involved in issues of water and air quality, although recent years have seen new areas emerge, such as bioremediation. Students at Washington University have a number of opportunities if they wish to become environmental engineers. One set of options, of course, is to pursue a background in engineering in the School of Engineering. There, a student can participate in an Environmental Resources program, the Environmental Engineering Science minor, or the Environmental Engineering Science option for a B.S. in Biological and Engineering Science. In addition, within the School of Arts & Sciences, the Environmental Studies major provides students with a good background. Students who major in biology can do quite well in environmental engineering; bioremediation requires extensive knowledge of biology as well as engineering.
The most important skill that a student majoring in biology can gain in preparation for a career in environmental engineering is a ready facility with mathematics. Students should consider taking Math 217 (Differential Equations) and perhaps also Math 233 (Calculus III) and/or Math 2200 or 3200 (Elementary Probability and Statistics). Other courses students might consider include Chem. Eng. 142 (Introduction to Chemical Engineering), where the important concepts of mass and energy balance are covered, Chem. Eng. 320 (Thermodynamics, also offered as Mech. Eng. 320), and Earth and Planetary Sciences 323 (Biogeochemistry). Within the biology major, students would want to be sure to take Microbiology (Biol 349) and Ecology (Biol 381, Biol 4170 or Biol 419).
See http://mase.wustl.edu/Academics/minorinenvironmentalengineeringscience.asp for further information. In addition, students may contact the Air and Waste Management Association, either at its St. Louis Section (currently c/o David Shanks, Boeing Aircraft Co., Mail Code 1111099, P.O. Box 516, St. Louis, MO 63166) or its national headquarters (1 Gateway Center, 3rd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222; phone: 412-232-3444; http://www.awma.org).
A related career that can combine engineering, math, and biology is Industrial Hygiene, a field involving recognition, evaluation and control of environmental factors in the workplace. For information, write to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2700 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 250, Fairfax, VA 22031; phone 703-849-8888; http://www.aiha.org.
The pharmaceutical industry is diverse, with opportunities in small biotech start-up companies as well as in the large well-established multi-national firms. The industry is focused on the development of diagnostics for the rapid accurate identification of individuals with various disease states caused by infectious disease agents, hereditary diseases or acquired progressive disease states, with the development of therapeutic regimens to treat these diseases and with the development of means to prevent disease, often by immunization regimens. The pharmaceutical industry is also involved in the design, development and evaluation of prosthetic devices. In the area of development of diagnostic reagents and processes, the disciplines of microbiology, infectious disease research, immunology and molecular biology are particularly useful. In terms of drug discovery, a background in organic and physical chemistry and computer science, especially with regard to drug receptor interaction modeling, is useful. Of course, if the drugs are biologics produced by microorganisms or plants, an expertise in microbiology and plant natural products becomes important. Much modern drug development requires gene cloning and expertise in molecular biology and genetics. Ultimately, because all drugs must be fully evaluated for teratologic and toxic activities in animals, animal-science training also becomes important. In the development of vaccines and immunization protocols, individuals require expertise in microbiology and infectious disease research, as well as in immunology, molecular biology, and molecular genetics. In the manufacture of vaccines one gets into chemical engineering, fermentation, and bioprocess technologies that rely heavily on engineering as well as industrial microbiology. The development of prosthetic devices relies heavily on knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, and requires considerable engineering skills. In evaluation of all products developed in the pharmaceutical industry, out of necessity one must conduct clinical studies and these studies involve appropriate veterinary and/or medical training, as well as familiarity with experimental design, statistical analysis, toxicology, etc. Attending to regulatory issues with governmental regulatory agencies requires more of a business background as does marketing. These activities all require additional background and skills, but can be based on biology and biomedical science disciplines. Several schools offer Pharm.D. degrees, but be aware that some programs specifically require a B.S. in pharmacy for admission to the Pharm.D. program. Information on schools of pharmacy can be obtained from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 1426 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2841 (phone: 703-739-2330; http://www.aacp.org).