A virologist conducts research on viruses that infect humans, animals, bacterial cells and plants. He normally works in a laboratory studying organisms under a microscope, followed by extensive research conducted online or at medical libraries. His job may be in the medical environment of a hospital or clinic or in a diagnostic, industrial or research laboratory.
Food and beverage companies also commonly hire virologists, as do pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Virologists at these firms often work with other research scientists on consumer-oriented studies. Groups or individuals conducting private research projects to develop vaccinations often hire virologists through independent contracts.
As a virologist conducts his research, his area of concentration is normally on virus replication. This distinct ability to assume characteristics of the host cells on which they thrive is typically what makes viruses so difficult to control or eradicate. The viral parasite sometimes controls the original cells so significantly that the initial cells replicate the virus rather than themselves.
The virologist's job normally requires him to study substances produced by different viruses. These regularly include proteins and nucleic acids as well as less common substances. Examining by-products of virus cells frequently gives the virologist insight into how the organisms so successfully invade healthy cells.
Besides microscopic examinations, a virologist frequently tests common substances for viral infections. By analyzing various samples of food, water and other natural environmental materials, new viruses or mutations thereof are frequently discovered. The discovery of contamination sources are often the result of these analyses.
Professionals in this scientific field also regularly develop vaccines used to immunize animals, people and plants against impending infections. They also create formulas to help cure infections. Many of the most successful vaccines and cures available today are the result of virologists’ vigorous efforts in field testing procedures.
This job is generally considered more dangerous than many other medical research positions. Virologists often handle organisms that have proved to be deadly. They frequently work with substances whose dangers have yet to be determined. Protective clothing and sealed biohazard rooms are commonly part of a virologist’s job environment.
A bachelor’s degree in immunology or microbiology is normally required before a person can specialize in virology. A medical virologist career commonly requires a medical degree prior to the pursuit of specialization. Senior research virologist positions usually require the job candidate to have a Ph.D. or master’s degree in an applicable science.