Chances are, if you’re curious about learning more about the biological sciences, you’ve already stumbled upon a field called molecular and cellular biology. While it can be confusing to find your way through the numerous branches and specializations within the discipline of bioscience, there’s no need to worry – especially when it comes to molecular biology.
While molecular biology is a relatively young science, its importance to modern medicine is incontestable. From studying the living systems inside of our bodies, to investigating the biological systems that take place in nature – molecular biology is involved in finding innovative solutions to our most pressing scientific inquiries. Press on and learn more about the field that is changing today’s medicinal and environmental landscape.
What is Molecular Biology?
Cellular biology starts only at the beginning of the 1930s and 1940s. The history of this discipline sits in stark contrast with much of the origins of biology, which actually date back to the nutritional and medical records of ancient civilizations. Although relative to the history of general biology as a whole, molecular biology has a shorter history, it is still as interesting and vital to our understanding of the field.
For much of the 19th century, a network of scientists - most notably structural chemists, physicists and geneticists - strove to understand the core problems involved with inheritance. The scientific community involved with genetics had been dependent on, until that point, the studies on the laws of segregation and independent assortment performed by Gregor Mendel.
At the dawn of the 20th century, however, scientists grew more and more concerned with pinning down the unique mechanism of the biological processes that created gene expression and gene reproduction. This led to the explosion of many fields of biology we might recognize today!
One particular study, performed in 1926 by scientist Thomas Hunt Morgan, caused the discipline's first paradigm shift. The study, which experimented on the fruit fly, sought to understand the gene of the organism. It was because of this experiment that the scientific community realized there was a void where a discipline should be. Geneticists found that they were limited in their study of the structure and function of the genome with regards to the definitions of their discipline.
This lead to the formation of integrative teams in the 1930s and 40s, involving the interaction between three fields: chemistry, physics and biology. In fact, quantum physics and structural biology at this time, paired with innovative new x-ray technology, lead to the birth of an era of international cooperation and scientific investigation.
In 1953, discoveries by the scientists James Watson and Francis Crick changed the field of molecular biology and cellular knowledge forever. Their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA produced yet another shift within molecular biology, giving the discipline both a new definition and a new goal. From then on, molecular biologists moved away from experimentation meant to uncover the hereditary process and towards those that involved heredity with DNA and genes.
The questions that followed from the advancements of Watson and Crick in the 50s, lead to even more with the technological advancements of the 60s and 70s. The race to understand DNA sequencing led to the discipline shifting again in the 80s, 90s and 2000s. Scientists became concerned with both coding genomic properties and detailing the molecule as precisely as they could.
In the 21st century, scientists are now prioritizing the study of the molecular processes that the nervous system undergoes in humans, and simultaneously trying to uncover the further sequencing of genomes of humans, animals, and plants.
Molecular biology, then, is defined as the study of the molecular foundation of genetic processes, the identification of the genes found on specific chromosomes, and the mapping of the macromolecules essential to life. While we tend to only think about nucleic and microbial topics when first coming into contact with molecular biology, it's history underscores its reliance on interdisciplinary pursuits.
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Molecular Biologist Careers
Are you curious about the possible careers involving molecular biology? The exciting news is that this particular branch of science, as previously mentioned, is extremely diverse and dynamic. Here is some essential information on the jobs, as well as the educational requirements and compensation involved in molecular biology.
Molecular and cell biology is multidisciplinary, and therefore offers many different career pathways – including, genetics, medicine and biotechnology. Cell biology also plays a vital role in the goals and pursuits provided by the discipline of botany. While this consequently means that the type of degree you should get will depend heavily on which route you want to go down, there is a general rule of thumb for careers in cellular biology.
The first rule is that it is necessary to attain a bachelors degree in biology or a related field in order to assure you will get any entry-level job. The second rule applies for anyone who is interested in having a career in education or laboratory research, which is that it is necessary to complete a masters and possibly a doctoral degree.
While you might be hesitating on whether to pursue a field in biology mainly over financial concerns, it is important to note that when doing your research into how much your annual salary will be, it is vital that you have a couple of specific job positions in mind. For example, the starting salary for a biological technician is between £15,000 and £19,000 – whereas a senior management in the same field will bring you about 30 to £40,000 annually. The starting salary for a neurosurgeon, however, is £40,000 – where the average salary is around £99,000.
These molecular biologists focus on assisting scientists with their laboratory studies and duties. For example, technicians can be in charge of performing tests on cells to see how they react to acid. This type of job is considered to be entry-level work and requires only a bachelors. Some of the areas you can major in are:
- Cell Biology
- General Biology
If you're interested in this type of work, be sure to check out some other disciplines that can lead you to a life of investigation and scientific inquiry.
Growing up, biology teachers held that special position as teachers to either incite you with curiosity or bore you to death. If you’re interested in empowering young people and helping them learn more about the world around them, you might want to consider a career in education. While most high schools require only bachelor level degrees, teaching at the university level will require graduate or even post doctoral work. Some areas you can study are:
- Life Science
- Developmental Biology
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Molecular and Cellular Biologists
Being a molecular biologist requires an interest in molecules and their processes, while cellular biologists study everything about cell development and function. Careers in these fields are plentiful, and involve research biologists, cellular imaging, and ecosystem development.
This field also involves work in the medical field. While general biology degrees can set you on the path towards a career in medicine, there are many other routes to get there depending on what your interests are. For example, if you’d like to become a surgeon, it is important to identify what type of surgeon you’d like to be. This will ultimately help you decide what pathway to take in terms of what types of degrees will be right for you. Here are some fields you can study if you’re interested in these all of these specializations:
- Computational biology
Basic Concepts of Molecular Biology?
There are several questions you might be asking yourself about biology, whether you’re taking an undergraduate course, are a biology graduate student, at the postdoctoral or researcher level, or even an established biologist already. Touching base on general concepts can help you in many ways, including introducing you to what you are about to learn in class or reminding you of what you might have learned already.
These questions are both how hard it is to study molecular biology, and how to study for molecular biology. There are several approaches to studying biology; one of them is outlined here. Namely, we list the basic and core topics within the discipline to help give you an idea of what the field is about or remind you of your basics.
A eukaryote is any cell and organism that has a nucleus. It is composed of a nuclear membrane, defined chromosomes, and organelles such as mitochondria, golgi apparatus, and endoplasmic reticulum. The process of eukaryotic transcription, on the other hand, refers to one of the most vital processes that organism can undergo. This is the process in which DNA is converted into RNA, and enables information to be carried to different parts of the body.
The process by which the information held within DNA is used and converted into a functional product, such as a protein.
Genomics has to do with the structure, function and inheritance of genetic material, or genome, of an organism. This is heavily involved with DNA sequencing.
This is a chemical compound that carry information of the cell and, therefore, determines its inherited characteristics.
A pathogen is a disease-causing microorganism. There are four main types of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and worms.
This is a large molecule, with a diameter normally between 10-5 to 10-3 millimetres. For example, rubber and many synthetic materials are made up of macromolecules.
Lipids are organic compounds that do not react well with water. For example, fats, oils and hormones.
If you want to learn some more about how you can apply scientific knowledge to conservation efforts, check out marine biology!