Research technician jobs vary based on the industry in which the technician is employed. Such professionals may work in scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, and geology. They might also be clinical research technicians, meaning that they work in a subfield of clinical health care. Still other research technician jobs are available in fields such as agriculture, nuclear physics, and forensic anthropology. Research technicians may assist the primary researcher or research team at various levels depending on the technician's level of experience and ability.
In general, the term research technician applies to those who assist researchers working in some aspect of science or medicine. Science research technician jobs are as diverse as science itself, though certain branches come more readily to mind than others. For example, many can imagine that a chemist's assistant would be responsible for monitoring laboratory equipment, measuring substances in test tubes and beakers, and participating in chemical experiments.
Other branches of science offer research technician jobs as well. An oceanographic technician might be responsible for taking and analyzing samples of ocean water, while a pedology research assistant would take and analyze soil samples. An agronomist's research assistant would help study the use of plants for food and so would assist the scientist in evaluating the effects of soil, water, and light conditions on particular plants. A research technician in forensic anthropology might measure and weigh bones. Research technicians can also help research climate, fossils, and sediment as well as plants and animals or volcanoes.
A substantial portion of research technician jobs fall within clinical fields. This includes pharmacology, the study of medicines and treatments; immunology, the study of the human immune system; and pathology, the study of disease. It might also include specialized study of certain organs, medical conditions, or drugs.
The actual functions of a research technician depend on the nature of the research and the technician's level of ability. Junior technicians might be responsible primarily for maintaining and cleaning the lab, while more senior technicians might participate in actual experiments. Senior-level technicians are also more likely to perform field work.
While the term research technician is generally associated with scientific or medical fields, it can be used in any area in which research is conducted. This might include statistics, English literature, or linguistics. Most often, these fields would use the terms research assistant or research associate, but the assistant might still be called a technician.