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the New Genetics
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The large, multidisciplinary Human Genome Project
(HGP)–the completed effort of finding all human genes and characterizing a reference
genome–has promised to revolutionize the future so profoundly that the 21st
has been dubbed the "biology century." Almost everyone will
be affected by applications of information and technologies derived from
the HGP era of the late 20th century. Entirely new approaches
will be implemented in biological research and the practice of medicine
and agriculture. Genetic data will provide the foundation for research
in many biological subdisciplines, leading to an unprecedented understanding
of the inner workings of whole biological systems. The benefits of genomic
research are, or soon will be, realized in such areas as forensics and
identification science, ecology and environmental science, toxic-waste
cleanup, creation of new bioenergy sources and more efficient industrial
processes, as well as in understanding the mysteries of evolution, anthropology,
and human migration.
Among the fields that HGP research will impact are
engineering, computer science, mathematics, counseling, sociology, ethics, religion,
law, agriculture, education, pharmaceuticals, instrumentation, nuclear medicine,
forensics, bioremediation, biofuels, and journalism. Cross-disciplinary students
with solid backgrounds in science and in one or more other fields such as journalism,
law, and computer science will be needed to tackle the issues and applications
arising from the HGP.
Commercialization of numerous applications in genomic
science is fueling the burgeoning life sciences economic sector. Legislation
and litigation increasingly will be concerned with genetics and the intellectual-property
issues pertaining to genetic information and technologies. Educators,
the media, students, and the public need a good understanding of this
"new genetics" and its implications so that they can better
communicate, teach, and help others make related career and personal decisions.
Democratizing access to genetic science information should help maximize
HGP benefits while protecting against misuse of the data. Every effort
must be made to ensure that everyone–regardless of race, citizenship,
or national origin–enjoys the benefits of genomics research and its subsequent
applications, including life improvements and excellent career possibilities.
Society simultaneously must be protected from such possible negative impacts
as the failure to preserve the privacy of individual genetic information.
People in fields such as business,
which traditionally have not required life sciences training,
are finding they need a working knowledge of
the principles of biology and life science research and development. Presented
below are some traditional and new bioscience career possibilities, followed
by some educational strategies for pursuing such careers.
Possible Career Areas in Bioscience
The biotechnology industry more
than tripled in size between 1992 and 2001, with revenue increasing
billion to $27.6 billion. In 2001, there were 191,000 U.S. employees,
and more opportunities are expected in healthcare, food production,
environmental cleanup (www.bio.org). In regard
to the burgeoning drug industry based on genomics, the Consulting Resources
Corporation’s newsletter for biotechnology professionals said, "We
expect the growing family of new genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics
technologies to dominate . . . developments in therapeutics by greatly
improving the efficiency and speed of the entire drug discovery, testing,
and approval process."
- Medical genetics, genetic counseling, genetic nursing
- Gene testing, gene therapy
- Organ transplantation, fertility, and reproduction
- Public health
- Pharmaceutical industry and suppliers
- Chemical, vaccine, medicine development and
- Database development, operation, use
- Communication, work with regulatory agencies
Agriculture and Wildlife
- Genetic modification of foods and seeds
- Biopesticide and neutriceutical development
- Wildlife management: Identification, protection of
- Authentication of consumables such as wine,
Computational Biology (including Bioinformatics)
- Database creation, data analysis, modeling,
- Mathematics, statistics, actuarial field
- Bioprocessing chamber, vat design and production
- Toxic-waste cleanup
- Instrumentation development
- Creation of new energy sources via engineering, life
- Biomedical engineering.
- Biosciences industry investing
- Marketing and sales
Law and Justice
- Patent specialties
- Specialties in ethical, legal, and social issues
- Gene and paternity testing
- DNA forensics--in the laboratory, in the field,
in the courtroom
History and Anthropology
- Use of genetics to study population, migration patterns
- Study of inheritance over evolutionary time
- Soldier identification
- Pathogen identification
- Biological and chemical warfare protection
- Radiation-exposure assessment
- Research into space effects
- Search for other life forms, evidence of life
- Sequencing of many organisms, including human
- Data analysis, computation
- Functional genomics
- Human variation in health and disease
- Microbial genetics
- Environmental studies
- Reporting, writing, editing
- Website development, maintenance
- Public relations
- Special events
Preparing for a Career in the Biosciences
Government Internship Programs
- Gain experience in the biosciences industry
through internships, volunteer work, work-study, and co-op programs.
- Pursue a cross-disciplinary education. Biology
problems are too big to be solved by people trained in only one discipline.
People need science and technology basics, training in computer use
and information technology, and education in bioethics to anticipate
and present options for solving prickly social issues. Community and
four-year college training is offered in biology and related disciplines,
including integrated science and technology programs that incorporate
computer science, information technology chemistry, biology, engineering
principles, and bioethics.
- Surf the Internet and use library resources
to read newspapers, technical magazines, and trade journals.
- Contact your state’s biotechnology
industry organization or find its careers section on the Web.
- Talk to professionals from a wide array of disciplines.
Don’t be shy; showing your interest will open doors.
More Information on the Web
HGMIS would appreciate suggestions for more
materials for this area.