Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, such as fungi and bacteria. A microbiologist works primarily in a laboratory, analyzing the structure and processes of microorganisms, cellular tissue, proteins, and biological medicines. Some time is also spent outside, collecting cultures and air, soil, and water samples. Professionals in this field design research measures and conduct experiments to learn more about the microscopic world.
The knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology, and medicine is combined by people in this field to conduct exacting laboratory research. Many microbiologists work to develop new vaccines, biological drugs, biofuels, and agricultural products. They observe and analyze samples using highly specialized equipment, such as electron microscopes, spectrometers, cell sorters, and electronic sterilizers. In addition, they use advanced computer software to identify different microorganisms, count cells, chart the spread of pollutants or disease, and compare their results with previous studies.
A microbiologist might specialize in one or more particular disciplines within the discipline. Cell physiologists study the mechanical and chemical processes that occur at the cellular level in organisms. Immunologists examine bacteria, antibiotics, and probiotics that may prove useful in preventing and treating disease. Bioinformatics microbiologists use computer technology to examine and organize information about molecular processes. Others specialize in food sciences, veterinary medicine, genetics, and evolutionary microbiology, among many other fields.
Professionals in any specialty must have extensive knowledge of laboratory and field procedures, such as how to collect samples and prevent contamination in the lab. They typically work alongside other scientists in the field and the lab, though a significant amount of independent work is spent analyzing and recording results. Microbiologists must be able to accurately organize their findings and create detailed lab reports, which are frequently published in scientific journals.
A person must usually obtain a doctorate degree to become a microbiologist. As many as two years of formal, postdoctoral work as an assistant in a microbiology lab is necessary before someone can begin conducting independent research. Most are employed at universities, private research firms, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies. Many choose to teach biological science courses at universities either part- or full-time.
Job prospects are excellent for professionals in this field, as there is a growing need for experts in the developing field of applied biotechnology. Qualified scientists are needed to conduct laboratory research on harmful bacteria, pathogens, new diseases, and cancer. The complicated research and experiments conducted today will be applied to the development of new medicines to treat such maladies.