A graduate student melting fat in a lab

Fat chance: careers in lipids

Fancy a career working on fat? Jennifer Trent Staves looks at the options

If, like ‘Big Picture’, you find the topic of fat interesting, why not consider a career related to it? Here we give you a taste of what job options you have available.

Dietician

What would you do?

Use nutrition science to help people make informed choices about food and lifestyle to improve their health.

Where would you work?

Often with the National Health Service, but you could also work in industry, education or research, or for yourself.

What post-16 courses do you need?

There are a few routes you can take:

  • two or three A levels including chemistry and another science subject
  • three higher-grade Scottish qualifications 
  • BTEC National Diploma with merit pass in chemistry
  • access courses
  • advanced GNVQs in science. 

Obesity researcher

What would you do?

There are many potential strands of research in this area – you could work on understanding metabolic processes, coming up with treatments or testing prevention strategies. Or you could work more closely on a condition connected to obesity, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes or obstructive sleep apnoea.

Where would you work?

Probably in a university or hospital as a postdoctoral researcher, but you could also work in industry.

What post-16 courses do you need?

To become a researcher, you would start with a PhD in a relevant area, so you’d need a degree such as biology, chemistry, pharmacology or genetics. Working back, that would mean you’d need at the very least an A level in biology and probably maths. Chemistry would be a bonus.

Bariatric surgeon 

What would you do?

You would perform surgery on the stomachs of people with obesity. There are different types of surgery: a gastric band to reduce the size of the stomach, a gastric bypass to ‘skip’ a large portion of the stomach in the digestion process, or removal of a portion of the stomach.

Where would you work?

You would work in a hospital, either for the NHS or privately.

What post-16 courses would you need?

Three A levels (with two As and a B), usually in chemistry, biology and maths. You would have to qualify as a medical doctor, and then you would need basic surgical training before you could specialise in the upper gastrointestinal area. If you completed a fellowship in this area, you could get a certificate to qualify you.

Food scientist/technologist

What would you do?

You would develop products and test that they are safe for consumption. If you have a particular interest in fat, you could, for example, work on developing fat replacements.

Where would you work?

Probably in the food and drink industry.

What post-16 courses do you need?

Usually three subjects, with at least two sciences. Biology, chemistry, physics and maths are ideal, although food technology and sports science are good too. You would then go on to get a Higher National Diploma, a foundation degree or a degree in food science, food studies or food technology. Alternatively, you could start as a lab technician and study while you work.

Lipid researcher

What would you do?

This research varies from the obesity research as it is based on basic science: understanding how lipid and fat molecules work and how they can be used. Often, this is using a model organism such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) or Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode worm). You could also work in a more technology- or engineering-focused industry, such as nanobiology, working with lipid nanoparticles. You might study protein–lipid interactions or analyse lipids.

Where would you work?

You could work in the pharmaceutical industry or in the nanotechnology industry. Or you could stay in academia, working at a university biology or chemistry department. Lipids span different fields of study, so that increases your career prospects.

What post-16 courses would you need?

As with other research, you’ll need to work towards a PhD, so you’ll need three post-16 courses (at least two of which are science) to move on to a degree in a related field. From there, you could progress to a postgraduate degree, some of which might work in partnership with related industries.

Lead image:

UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS/Flickr CC BY NC

References

Further reading

Downloadable resources

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Careers From Biology’ in December 2015.

Topics:
Careers, Medicine
Issues:
Careers From Biology, Fat
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development