Career Profile: Biological Technician
At his desk (top), Joel compares DNA test samples to a reference sample, which looks like a bar code (bottom). (nih.gov)
National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education
I chose this career because…
I chose to become a biological technician because I wanted to go into the medical field. A big part of my life is my religion. I am a Reformed Evangelical Christian. It was important to me to work in an ethical profession. So I looked for a way to apply my biology degree towards human health.
When growing up, I was always interested in exploring and discovering things. In school, I excelled in math and science. Ever since high school, I have been interested in how things work on a molecular level.
My family was a strong influence in my career decision. My brother is a nurse practitioner. I considered that career too, but eventually decided that it was not what I was called to do. My brother is good with people, and he went on to achieve a masters degree in nursing. Seeing him succeed encouraged me to pursue a higher education.
My typical day involves…
My typical workday involves constructing deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA) libraries and serving as a team leader for the National Intramural Sequencing Center (NISC) library construction group. A DNA library is made by breaking up a DNA sample into smaller units for further studies. My work of constructing DNA libraries is the same as my colleagues in the group.
My technical specialty is DNA fingerprinting, a laboratory procedure that helps us correctly identify and track the DNA samples we process. The results look like a bar code that retail stores use to scan purchases. It serves a similar purpose too. The DNA sequence of any individual is unique. So a DNA fingerprint is like a personalized bar code. I compare the DNA fingerprints of the samples we process to the reference fingerprints made by the lab that sent us the samples. If the DNA “bar codes” match-up, then we know we have the right sample. We use a special software program (LINS) that helps us compare the two samples. It also helps us track every step in the DNA processing.
Constructing DNA libraries and DNA fingerprinting are steps in the process of large-scale DNA sequencing at NISC.
My Tasks as a Team Leader for the Library Construction Group:
• Maintain all equipment that team members rely on to do their work. The work includes troubleshooting problems if they occur, and calling in repair professionals if needed.
• Maintain an inventory of supplies for the library construction team
• Coordinate and maintain workflow and productivity of the group
• Lead weekly team meetings to communicate all work-related issues, discuss problems that arise and seek solutions
• Train new individuals on all of the equipment and teach them the laboratory procedures and protocols
I am currently training to use a new genome sequencing analyzer. It will enable us to sequence DNA at a lower cost and with a higher output. I will maintain this equipment as well.