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What is a Biomedical Scientist?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A biomedical scientist is a clinical laboratory expert who researches medications and diseases. Most professionals work in hospitals to analyze fluid and tissue samples, diagnose conditions, and determine the best treatment methods for particular patients. A biomedical scientist may also be employed by a pharmaceutical company, university, or private research institution to develop new drugs and add to the collective knowledge of disease. The field of biomedical science is vast and complex, and scientists typically spend about 12 years in universities and practical training positions before they are fully prepared to work independently.

Scientists who work in hospital laboratories utilize sophisticated tools and techniques to examine samples of human tissue. Relying on their extensive medical knowledge, they can identify the presence of abnormalities such as bacteria, viruses, and cancers. Biomedical scientists make detailed observations and discuss their findings with physicians to decide on the most appropriate treatment measures.

A biomedical scientist may also work in drug research and development at a pharmaceutical company, experimenting with new medications and overseeing clinical trials. Pharmaceutical researchers create vaccines, develop diagnostic equipment, and explore the possibilities of nuclear medicine. Some skilled biomedical scientists assume positions at universities and private laboratories to conduct detailed, long-term studies and write scholarly journal articles about their findings.

An individual who wants to become a biomedical scientist is usually required to complete a four-year bachelor's degree program in biology, chemistry, or premedical studies from an accredited university. After graduation, he or she can apply for admissions into a medical scientist training program, a specialized educational path that ultimately leads to both a science Ph.D. and a Doctor of Medicine degree. There are relatively few accredited medical scientist programs compared to the large number of students who apply for positions. Schools, therefore, are likely to select individuals who have the strongest grades, admissions test scores, and recommendation letters.

Once accepted into a program, a student usually spends the first three years attending lectures and participating in laboratory activities. The final three years often are largely dedicated to conducting original research with other students, professors, and experts in the field. A graduate of a medical scientist training program can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship position at a hospital or laboratory to gain additional experience. Fellowships typically last about three years and allow a new scientist the opportunity to hone their skills under the supervision of established biomedical professionals.

After completing a fellowship, a biomedical scientist can look for a permanent position at a hospital, university, or pharmaceutical company. Hospital scientists are usually required to pass certification exams administered by regional or national boards to earn medical licenses. Professionals in other biomedical science jobs often decide to teach university courses in addition to conducting studies to supplement their income and prepare future generations for intensive research work.

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