If you’ve ever studied concepts related to the molecular processes of organism, or the steps involved in everything genetics related, chances are you’ve studied a type of biology called microbiology. This type of molecular biology focuses on the biological processes, structures and functions of organisms on a microscopic scale.
The study of microbiology involves the interaction of many different types of fields within the biological sciences, such as ecology, medical microbiology or other related biomedical areas. Being an expert in this dynamic field can mean being a researcher into genomic processes or pathogenesis, developing practical policies with regards to infectious diseases or biochemical products, sequencing genomes, and even producing new antimicrobial products.
If you're interested in learning how microbiology has changed the study of the animal kingdom, check out the biological science of zoology.
What is Microbiology?
If you're studying or have studied general biology, you have studied the concepts that make up the three main branches of biology. Organismal biology has, in fact, developed the most recently in comparison to the other three main branches. This science, more commonly referred to as microbiology, focuses on the study of microorganisms. The field's history can be traced back to the 17th century and its concerns with testing the structure and functions of the most common microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi.
The scientist credited to have published history's first work on microbiology was named Antoine van Leeuwenhoek. His drawings and observations made up a body of work that was eventually published by the British Royal Society. His work, which analyzed everything from the protozoans to the bacteria of animals, inspired many other powerful experiments and observations of the century.
The discipline of microbiology changed forever during the 19th century. There were two major developments that occurred during this time period that not only ameliorated the lives of those living in the era but continue to play a role in our daily lives in the present. One such innovation involves the concept of pasteurization. Pasteur, a now infamous scientist, produced this method out of his curiosity to understand everything about bacteria.
In the process of experimentation, he discovered pasteurization, which is a method of subjecting items to high temperatures with the goal of eliminating potentially harmful pathogens. This process is still used today for many commercial foods and drinks.
The second major development was produced by Robert Koch. A contemporary of Pasteur, Koch also concerned himself with the experimentation and analysis of bacteria. Koch, at the time, wrote and published work that focused on microorganisms that caused diseases in both the animal and the plant kingdom.
The field of microbiology has been forever marked, however, by the technological advancements of the 20th and 21st centuries. The young science grew as both computer and imaging technology improved, ameliorating both the examination of microorganisms and implementing better strategies with the aid of computer technology.
Modern microbiology is now a field that covers a vast array of subjects, from biochemistry and genetics, to even fields concerned with the study of aquatic animals. The discipline focuses on solving the world's most urgent problems, from examining metabolic and nutritional information to finding the cure for dangerous and infectious diseases.
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So you’ve been studying microbiology and want to know the possible career prospects? The exciting news is that being a scientist in this discipline is as rewarding as it is diverse. Here, we give some of the important information on the professions, as well as the possible salaries and educational requirements involved in majoring in microbiology.
Microbiology and cell biology involves the cooperation between many different fields, and is, therefore, a branch of biology that offers many different professional paths, which include work in the medical field for degrees in medical biology as well as work in governments for people interested in general biology.
One of the first tasks you should complete if you’d like to become part of the microbiology workforce understands what types of degrees you will have to attain in accordance with the jobs you are considering. For example, while entry-level work as a biology technician in a laboratory will often only require a bachelors degree, some medical and clinical laboratory technologists require a masters degree on top of the bachelors.
Finances can also be an important factor in informing your decision to pick up or continue studying microbiology – and therefore, it is extremely important to do some simple searches on the amount companies normally compensate the positions you’re looking into. For example, comparing only students with a masters in microbiology, you can get around £60,000 with job title related to microbiologist – whereas titles relating to the position of natural science manager can earn up to £110,000 a year. This is obviously a huge variation between masters with the same degree, so positions with different degree requirements will be even more variable.
If you’re interested in the portion of microbiology that deals with the great outdoors – finding work in public health and policy making can be an extremely satisfying career pathway. Environmental microbiology often deals with understanding the impacts of microorganisms, including bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Here are some other disciplines you can study if this interests you:
Clinical and Medical Laboratory Work
This type of work often involves students on the masters and postdoctoral level. While pursuing a career in the medical field is often seen as laborious and expensive, it can often be rewarding both mentally and financially. Working in fields related to clinical microbiology can lead you to both become a top earner and also work in innovative experiments. These experiments often try to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues related to things like diseases and medical treatments. Some of the areas you can study if you’re interested in this field are:
Biochemistry and Biophysics
Entry level positions in this field often require a masters degree, while senior positions in independent research often need candidates with doctorate degrees. This profession will involve a lot of research work that integrates the fields of biology with mathematics, chemistry and physics. If you have interests in all these fields, from creating nanotechnology for diabetes patients to better understanding biological processes, this career path can be very rewarding. Here are some of the other areas of study you can focus on if you’d like to study this field:
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How to Study Microbiology
Studying microbiology can be as difficult as it is interesting, which is why many people struggle to find the motivation to start or continue studying it. However, because microbiology is a field that penetrates every biological process of individuals and the world around them, it can be extremely rewarding to understand even the most basic of concepts within the discipline – everything from the microbial life of an organism, to the cellular and genetic characteristics of microorganisms.
Here are some basic concepts of microbiology that you may be currently learning or need help remembering. These concepts are important as they form the foundation for understanding what exactly microbiology seeks to understand and how it impacts the field of science.
A pathogen in microbiology refers to a biological agent that either cases an illness or disease to its host body. The process by which they disrupt the host’s normal functions involves mainly affecting the physiology of the animal or plant it has invaded. Combating pathogens involves a series of vaccinations, antibiotics and fungicides.
Genomes are very important to an organism’s life – in fact, it is the very building block of it. An organisms’ genome is the complete set of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, or DNA. This includes, of course, all of an organism’s genes, which hold the information used in the very building and maintaining of the organism itself.
While it might sound dangerous at first glance, humans are actually hosts to millions of microbes, more commonly known as microorganisms. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses and fungi. While most bacteria do not pose a threat to organisms, the majority of viruses are responsible for disease. Viruses can be either mild, causing colds for example, or extremely serious and dangerous, causing AIDS for example.
Fungi, on the other hand, are evenly split between beneficial and dangerous qualities. While some edible fungi like mushrooms have positively contributed to human subsistence, some fungi can also cause diseases.
Everything to do with bacterial biology has to do with bacteria, the single cell organisms that can survive in the most extreme environments. As previously mentioned, the majority of bacteria are not harmful to humans. In fact, there is a vast array of bacteria that actually help many of the processes both in nature and in organisms take place.
There are some diseases, however, caused by bacteria – but the amount of disease-causing bacteria as a total of all types make up less than 1%. Some examples of bacteria caused disease include sicknesses like tuberculosis, and many infections like diarrhea and tonsillitis.
Defining parasites is a bit difficult, as there are many living organisms – animals and plants – that can be characterized as parasitic. Parasites are organisms that rely on other organisms for food and shelter. While parasitic relationships can sometimes provide some benefits to the host, many parasitic relationships produce either disease or injury to the host. This is also called symbiosis.
Interested in learning more about the many different disciplines within biology? Check out this guide!