Find ways to make beneficial products out of plants and animals.

What does a Pharmacognosist do?

Humans are obsessed with tools. When the average person looks at an object, the first thought that flashes by might be, “How can I use that thing to get ahead in the world?” A Pharmacognosist answers this question in a laboratory each and every day, looking for ways to use plants and animals to benefit humans.

If you’re a Pharmacognosist working for a pharmaceutical company, finding new drugs out of existing plants, fungi, or animals consumes your thoughts. By reading old reports and studies, you might find out how other cultures used a specific plant to cure disease, and you might determine the potent chemical contained in that plant. Determining how to isolate that chemical and produce it in large quantities could take years. It’s unlikely you’ll ever have time to shop for Christmas presents, as you’ll be much too busy with experiments.

If you work as a Pharmacognosist for a commercial outfit, such as a seed company or a food production company, you might investigate how plant materials could be used to preserve food, without artificial chemicals. If the company produces novel foods, you might test those foods to make sure they’re safe for people to eat. The company might also ask you to come up with new pesticides that don’t kill bees, for example.

The work you do might change frequently, and some projects could simply fail. Approaching the job with a sense of adventure and an open mind could help you avoid disappointment.