On the Job
Science technicians conduct tests and experiments to assist scientists.
In the James Bond film series, the man called "Q" supplies James Bond with the tools he needs. Much of Bond's on-screen success comes from the devices and gadgets he uses in tough situations. Without Q's ability to use scientific theories to make useful devices, Mr. Bond would have to work much harder to make his escapes and thrill audiences. In the real world, Q's skills would make him an excellent science technician.Science technicians use scientific theories to solve problems in research and development. They also help invent and improve products and processes in manufacturing. Technicians have duties specific to their work setting. They also have many duties in common.
Science technicians who work in research conduct experiments and lab tests. As they work, they refer to instructions for the experiment. They also consult with the scientists who supervise them. They collect data for testing. Depending on the project, they may use remote sensors to look deep underground. Other technicians might take cuttings from plants or draw blood from animals. They prepare the samples for testing in the lab. They enter their information in a computer. Or, they may create cultures, chemical solutions, or slides. Next, technicians analyze these samples. They set up and operate computer simulations, lab instruments, and adjust settings and controls. They also monitor the experiments and make observations. Finally, they calculate and record the results.
Science technicians who work in production jobs monitor manufacturing processes. They may also test products for quality. For example, food technicians might test bottles or cans to ensure hardness. They also might analyze food samples to ensure the food is safe to eat.
The role of science technicians in research has expanded in recent years. In addition to routine tasks, many technicians also improve lab procedures to get the best results. They may also interpret data and find ways to solve problems. Technicians work under the scientists in charge of the research. Technicians use computers and equipment that interacts with computers.
Science technicians also clean and maintain their lab instruments. If equipment breaks down, they alert supervisors and may oversee its repair. They may decontaminate people, areas, or tools exposed to toxic materials. Some technicians order supplies to maintain inventory in the lab. All technicians keep detailed logs of their work activities, as well as write technical reports.
Agricultural technicians work in food, fiber, and animal research or production. They collect data and soil samples to test farming techniques. Biological technicians study living organisms. Many assist scientists with medical research and help find cures for diseases. Some work for drug companies and help develop new drugs.
Chemical technicians work with chemists. They might produce new compounds by combining chemicals. Environmental technicians check sensors, and perform lab and field tests to find the contaminants present in pollution. They make sure emission control sensors work well and follow state and federal rules. They may create programs to lower the amount of pollution at a site.
Nuclear technicians work at nuclear power plants. They also assist nuclear physicists in research. They operate nuclear test equipment and monitor radiation levels. They may use various methods to remove radiation. They may then report on how well those methods worked. Petroleum technicians measure and record conditions in oil or gas wells.
Geological sample test technicians test water, soil, rock, and other samples. They help find oil, gas, and mineral deposits. They may also test samples from underground areas to use for geothermal energy or carbon storage. Geophysical data technicians survey the land and underground areas using sensors and other tools.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Follow instructions for experiments or consult with scientists.
- Monitor sensors and collect data at industrial sites such as nuclear power plants. Use the data to make sure industry follows the rules for safety and impact on the environment.
- Collect data or samples for testing. Prepare computer models, cultures, chemical solutions, or slides.
- Set up, operate, and adjust settings on lab instruments or field equipment.
- Monitor remote sensors, tests and experiments and make observations.
- Calculate, record, and report results.
- Monitor manufacturing processes.
- Test products for proper proportions, purity, or strength and durability.
- May develop and adapt lab procedures to achieve best results.
- May identify areas suited for building power plants, mining, or drilling for fossil fuels.
- May interpret data and find solutions to problems, under the direction of scientists.
- Use computers and equipment such as radiation sensors or seismic imaging systems.
- Clean and maintain lab instruments. May decontaminate rooms, people, lab tools, and samples.
- Keep detailed logs of work activities and write reports.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Document and record information.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Process information.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Use computers.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Analyze data or information.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Control machines and processes.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Think creatively.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium to high level of social contact. They often talk to scientists and other technicians, but also spend time alone in the lab.
- Communicate with others by telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face discussions. They also write letters and memos, but less frequently.
- Have limited responsibility for the work done by other technicians.
- Are somewhat responsible for the health and safety of other workers. Nuclear technicians are substantially responsible.
- Usually work as part of a team.
- Usually work indoors. However, agricultural, environmental, and petroleum technicians perform much of their work outdoors.
- Sometimes wear safety attire, such as gloves or masks, when handling dangerous materials. Nuclear technicians sometimes also wear specialized protective devices when handling radioactive materials.
- Are sometimes exposed to loud sounds and distracting noise levels.
- Are sometimes exposed to contaminants. For example, chemical technicians may work with toxic chemicals. Nuclear technicians may be exposed to radiation. Biological technicians may be exposed to infectious agents.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous equipment. Nuclear technicians are exposed to nuclear reactors.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous conditions.
- May work physically near others, such as when sharing office or work space.
- Indoor work sites may not always have heating or air conditioning.
- Are sometimes exposed to radiation if work in the field of nuclear technology.
- Are sometimes exposed to diseases or infections if work in the fields of biology or agriculture.
- Must be very exact in their work and be sure that all details are done. Errors could have serious consequences for the health and safety of workers.
- Repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- Sometimes make decisions that greatly impact their company, coworkers, and customers. They often act independently, without talking to a supervisor.
- Often set their daily tasks and goals without input from others.
- Must meet strict weekly and daily deadlines.
- May sometimes work irregular hours to monitor experiments that can't be completed during regular working hours.
- May work day, evening, or night shifts, if working in production.
- Usually work at least 40 hours per week.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand when preparing samples or running tests.
- Sit when writing reports or analyzing data.
- Walk around the lab while conducting experiments.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or throw heavy objects.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.