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Connor M.



What degrees and fields of study does it take to become an induced pluripotent stem cell researcher?

Asked Anderson, Indiana

Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research is very new in the biology field. I have read articles stating that you need to fulfill requirements in x, y, and z. Though if I don't have "z" I am not hindered from being a iPSC researcher.

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Hello Connor, I have worked with iPSCs since 2009 to model particular diseases at a large pharmaceutical company in Boston and small startup companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. The majority of the work was done in neurological (ALS, Parkinson's Disease) and cardiovascular diseases (select rare diseases that have a cardiovascular deficit). I think you can look at educational requirements for the iPSC field in two ways: 1) as a developmental biologist: a researcher who understands how an iPSC becomes a particular cell type (i.e. a liver cell or a heart cell), and/or 2) an expert in a particular biological system/area (neuroscience, or hematology - an expert in blood cells) who understands what goes wrong in a particular disease. These are not mutually exclusive - you could be a expert in brain development and focus on how a particular brain disease is caused by impaired development of a particular cell type. For either direction (1 or 2, above), a Bachelor of Science degree from a college or university is great: biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, a pre medicine track - really anything in the life sciences that exposes you to developmental biology and how the body functions . You can then pursue a PhD or a Master's degree or an MD, either immediately or after working at a university or biotech/pharma company if you so choose. Getting exposed to iPSCs in a research setting as early as possible would certainly help - and feel free to reach out to individuals in the field to express your interest. You would be surprised how receptive people are to individuals who express specific interest and initiative. Note that an advanced degree (PhD, MD, etc.) is not required to work with iPSCs, but a lack of one will limit your options depending on what ultimate position you think you would like to have (if you really want to work at a university as a professor, you will need a PhD, and most high level scientist positions in industry essentially require a PhD). But if that sounds out of reach, I wouldn't let it deter you from pursuing the iPSC field. It can be done, and expertise can be attained through any number of ways, self-initiative included. I have worked with plenty of individuals who are fantastic scientists that do not have a PhD (I myself do not have a PhD but have worked in the field for a long time and was just lucky enough to participate in the iPSC field when it was just starting). Hope this helps. Feel free to ask further questions. Matt
Last updated Oct 20 '17 at 12:28 AM
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