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Career geekery

So let me tell you about microbiology - it's basically a dead science, much like phrenology. Most of what people call microbiology today involved genetically modifying bacteria for pharmacueticals or vaccine development, which are infact molecular biology and immunology respectively. Just for reference, I despise mol biol and I failed immunol.

The main problem at hand is that there is little to no money to be made from growing or identifying bacteria (be they novel species or well known ones) - there is no commertial market (with a few notable exceptions, like the recently discovered alkalai favouring bugs used for dye manufacturing) for finding out more information about bacteria. But develope a new antibiotic or vaccine or treatment for acne, and you make squillions of dollars.

Like many aspects of my life, my interest lies in an archaic and dare I say outdated subject which no one has the time nor the money to deal with.

Careers in microbiology are few and far between. If you really, really want to excell in the field, break new ground and aid mainkind and all that, you really need to be in one of two career paths; a) a CDC-like job (Centers for Disease Control), or b) in the millitary working on anti-biological warfare agents.

I'd love to work for the CDC - very few microbiologists wouldn't. It's a sexy job. The downside, as far as I'm concerned, is that there is most likely a move to the US involved. And yes, I know there is a Bio Level 3/4 lab somewhere in Victoria, but do I really look like I want to work for CSL or CSIRO or who ever runs it? I know CSL is the devil from personal experience, and I've heard awful things about CSIRO.

Which leaves the millitary. While I feel most passionately about the development of technologies and agents to counter-biological weapons (I think that biological warefare is one of the most atrocious things ever concieved), and I would dearly love to be involved in such research, I am not naive enough to believe that ANY government would only be involved in counter-agents. That's about as likely as me waking up tomorrow to realise that I am an enormous Jamacian man. I couldn't take the risk of knowning that whatever research I might do would be used to develope the very thing I am fighting so hard to protect mankind from.

However... we are soon to get into the lab a new FACS/Cell Sorter which can not only do live/dead staining of bacterial cells, but it can ALSO do species identification. And the model that we are to be getting is so robust and reliable that - this is the part I want you to pay attention to - the US Army currently uses it on the back of humvees as they drive arouns in Iraq, on the look out for air-borne bioweapon agents.

Which means at the end of my PhD, when I will be desperately looking for microbiology work, I will be both qualified and trained to use a piece of equipment that is already used in the field of anti-bio weapons.

I am just hoping and praying that I am as idealistic then as I am now.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
bishi_wannabe
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:28 pm (UTC)
>>I am just hoping and praying that I am as idealistic then as I am now.<<

I'm sincerely hoping you don't turn into a large Jamaican man, *especially* overnight. If you're going to do it, please do it during the day.

More seriously, if you ever want to move to America, say the word and I'm there. Though obviously I'd prefer Canada ;)
barrington
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC)
I've heard awful things about CSIRO.

Really? I've known one or two people who worked for them (one a geologist, the other I forget what), and they never complained. In fact, David the geologist seemed to quite enjoy it. The other guy complained a bit, but in general - not about the job or his employers. He was a knob, but he wasn't a microbiologist so I'm sure you wouldn't need to deal with him.

What have you heard about the CSIRO?
miss_rynn
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC)
Unfair, draconian supervisors for a start. Project funding being cut off with no warning for a second. From what I've heard, CSIRO does not play well with other companies and organisations, either, least-ways not in the biotechnology fields.

But this is all word of mouth - I could have been given the wrong impression. But I do think it's worth my while being wary of them.
mareth_redorb
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:48 pm (UTC)
I should put you in contact with my former lab partner - she's doing a biochem project, sequencing a retrovirus at the moment I believe - working for CSIRO. Your first two sentences there are, from what I've heard, a bit of an understatement. My job sucks, but at least I'm not being constantly undermined by my so-called superiors.
miss_rynn
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:58 pm (UTC)
You see, this is the sort of shit I'm talking about which shits me right up the wall: who the poop thinks sequencing a retrovirus is biochemistry?! Where do they get off calling molecular biology microbiology?! When, pray tell, did peptide chemistry become immunology?!

I mean, really! What's next? Cats and dogs, living together?!?!
mareth_redorb
Aug. 19th, 2004 02:44 am (UTC)
Whoa, don't shoot the messenger! :)

In answer to your questions posed, CSIRO, whoever it is walled away in their little office built of red tape wouldn't know the difference if you tattooed it to their retinas needed a catch-all phrase and there it is, when the organic chemists turned around and said "we're not doing that shit, let the weirdos doing biochem deal with it" - but then I was at Swinburne, who knows and only if the cat stops stealing the dog's hat and coat.

morsla
Aug. 18th, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC)
It largely depends on which part of CSIRO you work with. In general, it's a good place to work - it's one of the biggest research organisations around, and has good connections with other areas of the research sector (Universities, CRCs, etc).

It suffers from the problems any part of the public service has - congested bureaucracy, convoluted struggles to get contracts approved, etc. But these are better than most Uni systems, and they have the public service benefits (very good super, leave, etc) to back them up.

I've been in CSIRO for four years, now. Most of the problems I've had with it are specific to my division - and management/mismanagement decisions within it. You could find those problems anywhere, though.
(Deleted comment)
rincemaj
Aug. 18th, 2004 11:27 pm (UTC)
I'd love to work for the CDC - very few microbiologists wouldn't. It's a sexy job. The downside, as far as I'm concerned, is that there is most likely a move to the US involved.

There's also the fact that the Bush administration has been censoring CDC information over the last few years.

For example, the recent decision to force the CDC to teach abstinence only as its preferred method of STD prevention, whilst simultaneously telling kids that condoms aren't effective for preventing the spread of AIDS.
bishi_wannabe
Aug. 18th, 2004 11:33 pm (UTC)
>>For example, the recent decision to force the CDC to teach abstinence only as its preferred method of STD prevention, whilst simultaneously telling kids that condoms aren't effective for preventing the spread of AIDS.<<


Trippy - that's a Catholic line, I thought Bush was Protestant ;)
rincemaj
Aug. 19th, 2004 03:15 am (UTC)
Actually, he's an evangelical. Basically the Christian equivalent of an Islamic fundamentalist.
unsworn_nomore
Aug. 19th, 2004 12:47 am (UTC)
You mean... you're not an enormous Jamaican man? Then who was that I bought all that rum for? Dammit!
_musashi
Aug. 19th, 2004 03:04 am (UTC)
whoaaa, counter-bacterialterrorist. sounds fun but annoying at the same time. the jamaican thing, i dont get. i like jamaicans, if you were a huge one, the better! hahaha jk
alepto
Aug. 19th, 2004 04:22 am (UTC)
Australian Animal Health Lab
If playing with nasties is your thing try the CSIRO lab in Geelong. As of a few years ago a relly used to work there and loved it. I *believe* it has/had up to a level 4 rating. She was a microbiologist too. Faced similar problems to you, started working at Melb uni and seemed destined to work in the Uni system for the rest of her life. She lucked into the AAHL ( used to be called ANAHL but stragely changed its name) through a reference. Money was never a problem due to the wierd stuff that mother nature keeps popping up. I believe the phrase whatever they wanted. Mostly due to the fact that once you set up such a facility you really are stuck with it.

She particularly liked playing with all the deadly stuff. IF memory serves me correctly not only did they have the "standard stuff" like foot and mouth but had a full living reference library of "stuff".

Of course where you are allowed to travel is severely curtailed and umm no pets (I think). Also from memory she did look into a US goverment job ( no details remain in the brain) and there were some extreme restrictions on your personal life, of course that was a few years ago, but I guess it might have got worse rather than better considering the world climate.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )