Hi Sam and Manas,
To be truly honest, there are probably alternate jobs I could find and still make a similar income. Perhaps even a higher income. However, giving up the years of training/education would be quite difficult for me (perhaps an attachment I need to overcome). The type of research I do necessitates the taking of animal lives and I wouldn't easily be able to become another type of biologist that could avoid killing. PhD-level biologists (and most any other scientists) are so specialized that they can't easily change focus.
One thought that keeps me from changing careers is that I would likely choose to benefit from medical research regardless of whether I was participating. Every new drug goes through animal testing and animals are always euthanized after testing. There is also much suffering that is imposed outside of merely killing animals. For example, inducing tumors in mice for cancer research.
In some ways, I suppose it parallels the concept of eating meat versus being a butcher. Why is it acceptable (in the eyes of some) to mindfully consume meat but not mindfully take an animal's life? I don't want to get sidetracked though since I know that there has been much discussion on meat eating.
Perhaps the taking of lives for human benefit outside of food/clothing is an issue more Buddhists should contemplate. It is easy to look at a leather shoe and associate it with a dead cow, but have you ever thought of how many animals suffered to develop chemotherapy? Outside of medicine, chemical compounds in numerous products are tested for lethality against a range of different organisms before being approved for use.
It is a predicament and I don't know the "right" answer. I would be very interested in any more thoughts that the board has or if you have seen any teachings from lamas that address these issues.