A research assistant is a researcher employed, often on a temporary contract, by a university or a research institute, for the purpose of assisting in academic research. Research assistants are not independent and not directly responsible for the outcome of the research and are responsible to a supervisor or principal investigator. Research assistants are often educated to degree level and might be enrolled in a postgraduate degree program and simultaneously teach.
Undergraduate and Post-doctoral level
Although a research assistant is normally appointed at graduate level, undergraduates are also sometimes appointed to support research.
Similarly, someone who has recently been awarded a doctoral degree may hold a temporary appointment as a postdoctoral research assistant.
Clinical research assistant
A clinical research assistant is employed by a hospital or medical research centre, who is involved in the administration of clinical trials. He or she may assist a senior investigator with recruiting and enrolling research subjects, as well as with correspondence and grant applications.