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What does a Stem Cell Researcher do?

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  • Written By: Meghan Perry
  • Edited By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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A stem cell researcher performs experiments on different types of stem cells in order to find possible medical uses for them. The types of cells used in this research are generally either embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells. Most stem cell researchers work in laboratories conducting experiments, writing technical reports, and directing clinical trials related to the different functions of stem cells.

Specifically, a stem cell researcher plans experiments and then carries them out. Whatever the results of the experiment are, the scientist records the data and then interprets the results to demonstrate the significance — either as a success or failure — of the experiment. Accurate records must be kept so that the data collected can be analyzed effectively and the results can be used in later experiments. This often involves using specialized computer software specific to the area of experimentation.

Accurate records are also imperative to stem cell research because they allow the researcher to easily distribute the results, especially to others in the field. This is important, as another central aspect of the job of a stem cell researcher is to share results with colleagues through presentations at conferences and articles published in journals. Reports are also written and presented to the agencies that fund the research so that the funding bodies can be kept abreast of how the research money is being used.

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While part of a researcher's job is to present the results of his or her experiments, it is also important for a researcher to be aware of other relevant research happening in the field. To do this, the stem cell scientist may read scientific literature written by other researchers or attend relevant conferences and meetings.

A stem cell researcher generally focuses on a specific medical field. For example, a researcher may work in oncology, and use stem cells to try and find treatments for cancer. An individual in this position may also work in hematology, using stem cells to find solutions or treatments for blood disorders. Neural research is also a potential area of expertise for stem cell researchers; in this field, they may conduct experiments to find ways to treat brain disorders or problems. Still other researchers focus on the basic molecular structure of stem cells, which can involve generating the cells themselves and conducting experiments on the lineage of the cells.

Stem cell scientists generally work in labs in either hospitals, research institutions, or higher education institutions. At the college or university level, a part of the researcher's job is often to teach students and then supervise their work. This can often also involve evaluating and grading the students' work.

Almost all stem cell researchers are required, at the very minimum, to have a bachelor's degree. Most positions, however, also require an advanced degree. Depending on the field of interest, this degree could be in molecular biology, cell biology, or biomedical science, to name a few. A doctorate degree is sometimes required, especially for stem cell researchers who work in higher education, because part of their job is to teach students.

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