What is a Research Lab Technician?

Cassie L. Damewood

A research lab technician performs scientific studies and experiments. She is generally responsible for the set up, operation and maintenance of instruments needed for specific experiments. As the experiments progress, she is normally required to observe, analyze and record outcomes, sometimes which result in conclusions. Detailed records of each phase of every experiment are vital to the worth and validity of the conclusions.

A research lab technician placing a test tube in a centrifuge.
A research lab technician placing a test tube in a centrifuge.

These research experiments normally involve principals of physical, chemical, biological and life sciences. In-depth knowledge of the materials being tested is important. Extensive and comprehensive understanding of the testing equipment is necessary to properly adjust it to accommodate changes and recognize possible failures in its performance.

Research technicians work both alone and with teams.
Research technicians work both alone and with teams.

Depending on the nature of the research project, the position of research lab technician may require working independently or as an integral part of a focused team. Some exploratory projects require the technician’s focus through many phases and stages of testing. Other experiments may yield acceptable results in a matter of minutes.

Proficiency in applying theories and principles of different sciences is generally required to be a successful research lab technician. Subsequent to the conclusion of initial tests, the technician is normally required to submit the results to her superior for analysis. The senior lab technician then normally directs her to proceed to the next phase, repeat the procedure for authentication or abandon the process if it appears no feasible conclusions are within reach.

As the technician gains experience, her input on procedures and opinions on conclusions may be sought. Based on her research and the results of related experiments she has studied, she may propose small or radical changes to testing procedures. Her studies may have also provided her with facts on previously unknown variables that may be relevant to the experiment and how it was conducted.

A research lab technician commonly can find work in a wide range of testing environments. These settings normally include hospitals, clinics or medical laboratories. If the experiments are for the benefit of industries other than health and medicine, the plants or companies may have self-sustained laboratories on their premises.

While a four-year college degree is not always required for this position, most companies require related training or certification. This qualification can be fulfilled through obtaining either an associate’s degree or a certificate of completion in applied science or another science-based program. To advance in the field of laboratory research or specialize in a certain industry, a bachelor’s degree is normally a requirement.

Research lab technicians perform scientific studies and experiments.
Research lab technicians perform scientific studies and experiments.

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