Blacksburg, Va.-- Today's college graduate with a degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, or biology, will not find many jobs in academe, where turnover is not brisk. Graduates are more likely to be offered a job by a large pharmaceutical company or a biotechnology start-up company. Or they may even start their own company.
In any case, they will have the best chance of success if their degree cuts across classical department boundaries-- and not only the disciplines of chemistry and biology. An exposure to business and public speaking, and good writing skills, will also do them a lot of good, says Tracy Wilkins, director of biotechnology at Virginia Tech. "The highest paying jobs in biotechnology and chemistry are not behind the bench with test tubes, but are out front: in management, information technology and marketing." In biotechnology companies, most of these people have degrees in a scientific discipline.
Wilkins will be speaking about jobs of the future at the Young Chemists session of the 218th American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, Aug. 22-26.
When biotechnology began, the molecules of interest were proteins, like
insulin. These human proteins were "engineered" and produced by bacteria in
large vats, but they had to be injected instead of given orally as pills,
explains Wilkins. In big pharmaceutical companies, chemists are primarily
involved in the production of small therapeutic molecules that can be given as
pills. These drugs interact with protein receptors like a key in a lock to cause
the desired effect. Now large pharmaceutical companies have adopted
biotechnology tools to identify and recreate target receptors. Chemists now use
robotic synthesis techniques to produce thousands of different variations of
compounds and to find the best small molecule to interact with the receptors.
"To create small molecule compounds-- in other words, drugs that can be
administered as pills-- the pharmaceut
Contact: Tracy Wilkins before Aug. 21