A Day in the Life: Entry-Level Scientist
Published: May 01, 2021
8:15 PM: I come in and check my e-mail then plan the day. I usually have to communicate with the Operations Group (they run the high-throughput screens) to check on the status of ongoing experiments so I can go from primary to secondary characterizations.
9:15 PM: 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 PM: The 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 and a member of the Products group describing ongoing product development work.
1:00 PM: Do data analysis at my desk (e.g., powder x-ray diffraction, differential scanning calorimetry, thermal gravimetric analysis).
3:00 PM: Go to Group meeting (my group has 6 members) to update our Supervisor on the status of projects, either independent projects or larger projects that have several team members. The Supervisor will ask questions and give advice on running further experiments or recommending additional data points to be collected. The Supervisor 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 PM: Update lab notebook with either data collected that day or experiments started. Get started on experiments that can be set up and run overnight.
5:00 PM: 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 PM: Commute home
Pros and Cons of Working as an Assistant Scientist
I like having a variety of tasks, gathering data through multiple methods and trying to interpret data from both high-throughput experiments as well as from bench-top experiments. I like the sense of contributing to the understanding of drug candidates who are likely to get into clinical trials. I like being exposed to industry and to the various issues in the pharmaceutical industry, both within my field and outside—largely from presentations—from senior scientists and other experts.
I sometimes have tedious tasks, such as weighing out lots of samples from high-throughput experiments or doing the same technique on many samples. Sometimes, I feel limited by having only a BS degree, as so many people I work with have PhDs. They have more in their heads to work with. This creates a great desire in me to go on to earning an advanced degree, to get more on my plate to be able to apply, and to make a bigger contribution.