A microscopist is a scientist who studies the structures and composition of a wide range of materials using a microscope. Generally, she will prepare her specimens, view them under the microscope, make note of her perceptions, and record or photograph the microscopic images. An amateur microscopist may use a simple light microscope to examine larger specimens, ranging from onion peels to hair follicles. As the microscopist advances in her work, she may use more complex instruments, such as contrast light microscopes, and scanning electron and tunneling electron microscopes. Tunneling electron microscopes allow the most advanced microscopists to study individual atoms and molecules.
Microscopy is used in almost every field of scientific study. For example, many microscopists work in cytology or anatomy. They may look for cancerous cells, blood-borne pathogens, bacteria, or viruses under the microscope. Some microscopists may only look for specific materials, such as cancerous cells. If the cells are present, the doctor and patient are informed of the results and the microscopist’s job ends there. Other microscopists may work to research ways that cancerous cells spread, how viruses mutate, and what kills certain kinds of bacteria.
Not all microscopists study materials relating to the human body. Some study plant and animal life. For example, they may examine water samples to see what kind of bacteria or toxins are in the water.
A microscopist does not need to study living organisms, however. For example, geoscientists use transmission electron microscopes to study geological materials at the nanometer scale. As a result, they can learn more about the chemical make up, oxidation, and weathering of various geological formations.
Depending on what field of study the microscopist is interested in, there are countless career options. Professionals can find opportunities to work in the fields of medicine, biology, and geology. There are also opportunities available in the fields of forensic science, electronics, and food science. Generally, microscopists are hired to work for universities, hospitals, and medical schools. They also can look for employment at museums, government agencies, independent laboratories, and large corporations.
For someone who wants to become a microscopist, it is best if she completes four years of science courses in high school. Obtaining a four-year degree in biology, chemistry, geology, or physics is recommended, especially for someone who wants to work in a more complex, research-based setting. There are many two-year courses in microscopy that teach the basics. The two-year programs are ideal for people who want a career as a microscopic technician.