What’s it like as a Biotechnology student?
Hello! My name is Erik.
I am a student here at Flinders University who studies Biotechnology.
I wanted to first cover the biggest misconception that most people have, and that is, what even is Biotechnology?
Biotech is the integration of technology and biology, utilizing living systems and natural resources for innovation! Hopefully I can explain to you what that looks like practically by telling you what my day looks like and what kind of things I get up to.
What does your day look like?
I usually start the day with an online recorded lecture relevant to the material that will covered throughout the day. I will have it playing in the background while I eat my breakfast and sip my morning coffee.
Throughout my degree I’ve been involved in a voluntary lab placement where the team has been trying to find new antibiotics to solve the global antibiotics resistance crisis. We have been investigating the secondary metabolites produced by marine and freshwater fungi for their antimicrobial properties. So, after breakfast I’ll head to the lab to prepare and sterilise any equipment and materials that I will need that day. An example of this would be preparing fresh growth medium for microorganisms. This will then get sterilised by either myself or the lab tech and be ready for use that afternoon.
My schedule varies a lot, but from here I might have a tutorial/workshop which is an in person learning environment where you’re challenged with that week’s content. These are usually group work focussed and are designed to help you gain a better understanding of the lecture material. Workshops are also an opportunity to get to know your peers and develop friendships.
After this I will usually have a small break where I can get a coffee or a little snack from one of the many food outlets around the campus. As a science student this is usually the café located in Anchor Court due to most classes being this side of the lake.
What happens after your lab?
Once I’ve had my break I might have a lab, so I’ll head down to the biodiscovery centre. During labs, you will be introduced to cutting edge technology designed to gear you with a workplace relevant skillset. These labs usually run for 3 hours. For example, you could learn how to splice a microorganism’s genome with a gene from a jellyfish, making them glow. Or make immune cells attack foreign bodies live under the microscope. Job listings in biotechnology often state the skills learned in these labs as job requirements, e.g., use of equipment or processes.
After my lab, I will usually grab some lunch from the hub with some friends and relax for an hour. Depending on my workload, I will sometimes head to one of the many study spaces available on campus to catch up on coursework.
Then I head back to lab to run the various assays I prepared earlier and discuss with my team. This might include formulating a plan or experiment, discussing results, and extracting or testing the metabolites from the fungi.
But what does a Biotechnologist do?
Another question I get is what does a biotechnologist do? What jobs can you hope to gain? Biotechnologists are required in various fields such as medical, industrial, agricultural, and food research where they may work in the field, in the lab, or in an office. Biotechnology is one of the most rapidly growing fields in the world and new innovative start up companies are constantly being developed, with major funding from the Australian Government.
This sounds like a busy day, but the great thing about university is the flexibility in your schedule. I might only have three contact days per week and have the rest of the week to catch up on lectures, assignments, or any lab work. It’s worth noting that I have a son, work part time, and have a full-time study load of 3-4 topics per semester, which I can manage easily.
I hope I have given you a bit of an insight into Biotechnology and look forward to seeing you in the lab.
Otherwise you can always have a look at what other Biotech students have done in the past to get another viewpoint!