How to Become a Lab Technician

Nicolle Myers is a research scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. She also earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at the University of Washington. Nicolle has worked as a researcher in the science field for four years, and she has worked in three different labs.

What is a laboratory technician?

Generally, a laboratory technician works on projects created by their Principal Investigator (PI) to further the mission of the lab. They also support other lab members and help with lab operations.

Why did you decide to become a laboratory technician?

I want to go to graduate school for a PhD in molecular biology and wanted experience before applying.

Are there common misconceptions about your profession?

People think we make a lot of money and that we all work in a lab which researches cancer.

What is a typical day like for you?

The majority of my work is cell culture, so I am either taking care of my cell cultures or completing experiments using the cells. Since I am also the lab manager, I write protocols, organize the lab, and order supplies. Monday through Friday I’ll work between 8 to 10 hours, as well as a few hours over the weekend.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?

There are so many things! I love the challenge of troubleshooting protocols. I also love how rewarding it feels when I finish a project and see the results in a publication.

What are your least favorite aspects of your job?

I support responsible research with animals, but I personally do not enjoy working with mice. I am not very good with handling them and I almost always get bitten!

Is there anything you would have done differently while studying to become a laboratory technician?

I would have tried harder to get to know my professors so I could have learned sooner rather than later what it takes to get in to graduate school.

What classes did you take in college that are the most relevant to your job?

Cell biology, genetics, molecular genetics, developmental biology, virology, biochemistry, chemistry.

What personality traits do you think would help someone to be successful as a laboratory technician?

Dedication, be hard-working, a team-player, organized, goal-oriented, and have a love and curiosity for science.

What personality traits do you think might hinder someone’s success as a laboratory technician?

Independent, unorganized, nonchalant, only doing the job because your family expects it.

What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering studying to become a laboratory technician?

Early in your academic career, do not feel rushed into choosing exactly what you want to do in biology, just experience as many fields as possible and study hard. Talk to your professors; ask for their help and their advice. If you’re interested in doing an independent research project, be persistent with the faculty member you would like to have as your mentor.