— Edward O. Wilson
— Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
What is Microbiology?
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms - little, really little, critters. To be specific, microorganisms are the organisms which can only be seen through a microscope - they form the foundation of the pyramid of life. Some microbes are hugely useful to mankind (the yeast microbe used in baking and brewing, other bacteria and fungi used in the dairy industry to make cheese and curd) and others (those that cause infections in humans, plants and animals) are plainly harmful. Microbiologists investigate the fascinating world of microorganisms. They are in involved both in discovering how to cultivate and use the good ones and how to isolate and then use the infectious ones in formulating vaccines and antibiotics to treat or protect against the very diseases they cause. Every day, microbiologists around the world explore, investigate and discover how microbes exist and affect our lives. Microbiology is an exciting and challenging field because it seeks to find drugs for life-threatening illnesses.
Microbiologists can specialize in a variety of areas. From the food to the space industries, and everywhere in between, there are many opportunities for microbiologists! Following is a list of some of the many career options available to microbiologists.
Bacteriologists: Seeks to answer basic questions about bacterial growth, metabolism, diversity and evolution.
Biochemists: Discovers and teaches us how organisms obtain energy, consume nutrients and reproduce.
Biotechnologists: Manipulates genes in order to modify microorganisms. They produce novel organisms that make new products for human use. (i.e. insulin, medicine, grocery store items).
Cell Biologists: Explores the actions of molecules on and in the cell. Their investigations determine how microorganisms and cell function.
Environmental Scientists: Investigates the effects of biological, chemical, and geophysical activity on the environment.
Geneticists: Studies the process by which organisms inherit and transmit genetic information.
Immunologists: Investigates the body's defense against disease to answer basic questions about bacterial growth, metabolism, diversity and evolution.
Mycologist: Explores the various uses of molds and yeasts for the production of antibiotics as well as food.
Parasitologists: Investigates the complex life cycles of and adaptations made by organisms which depend on other organisms for survival.
Virologists: Studies viruses and bacteriophages. Virologists are interested in how viruses change and are always on the alert for new types. They can even choose a career as science writer, who writes articles for common people and professional microbiologists.
Career as a college/university teacher in the field of microbiology is also a bright option.