THE TRADITIONAL PATH
(HS= high school, UG= undergraduate, G= graduate school, PD= postdoctoral studies)
STAGE 1: Fundamental STEM skills acquisition (HS 1-4, UG 1-2)
Students gain a baseline understanding in the areas of mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. Courses on these topics are a prerequisite for most science and engineering degrees and the classes are filled with students with diverse interests (e.g. pharmacy, medicine, environmental engineering).
STAGE 2: Core biotechnology skills acquisition – (UG 3-4, G 1)
Students begin to take biotechnology-specific coursework. Courses in analytical chemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and biochemistry are commonly taken at this stage. High achieving students may begin to participate in closely supervised investigative research projects.
STAGE 3: Supervised investigative biotechnology research – (G 2-5)
Students have completed all formal coursework and work almost exclusively on investigative research projects guided by their thesis committee under the mentorship of their research advisor. The quality of the education provided at this stage is highly variable in the United States and is heavily dependent on the engagement of the student’s research advisor and the academic institution.
STAGE 4: Independent investigative biotechnology research – (PD 1-5)
Students have received their Ph.D. and are now post-doctoral associates (postdocs). Postdocs are typically given considerable freedom to develop and perform investigative research projects in academic research groups headed by tenured professors. Postdocs are the core engine of biotechnology research in the United States. Many new startup biotechnology companies are spun-off from academic research performed by postdocs.