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An industrial microbiologist, sometimes referred to as a biotechnologist, uses microscopic organisms in the production and manufacturing of marketable products for commercial use. This position is used in the creation of many common household items, like cleaning agents, antibiotics, and food products. Job requirements vary based on the hiring industry and can require employees to perform research and develop new products using microbial engineering. Microbiologists are employed by all aspects of the food industry, drug companies, and waste treatment systems.
Organisms commonly used in this type of manufacturing are fungi, viruses, protozoa, bacteria, and algae. These microbes may be used to break down larger organic materials and synthesize new compounds through their natural ability to initiate new chemical reactions in the materials with which they interact. An industrial microbiologist is trained to engineer these reactions in a controlled environment for different purposes. He may also be concerned with protecting products against invasion by these organisms. For example, antibacterial products and preservatives are designed to prevent the growth of bacteria on surfaces and in some foods.
Industries which employ an industrial microbiologist include waste management, breweries, bakeries and pharmaceuticals, among others. Algae and bacteria naturally feed on organic excrement, and are frequently introduced into waste treatment plants to cleanse the water and break down larger amounts of refuse. Yeast is the microscopic life form that is responsible for the fermentation process which creates beer's alcoholic content and much of its flavor. This household organism is also the reason bread, rolls and dough rise when allowed to sit and warm. Different types of antibiotics are created through the fermentation process of the microorganisms known as actinomycetes.
These biotechnologists are key in the production of most vaccines. A vaccine is typically created by isolating certain portions of viral DNA and injecting them into a healthy individual. The body's immune system analyzes the foreign DNA and begins manufacturing antibodies that will destroy it. When the vaccinated patient ultimately encounters the full form of the virus, through potential exposure to an infected person, his body is already prepared to fight the illness. For example, the viral strain of influenza changes seasonally, and a new vaccine must be created regularly to combat each new strain as it infects the general populous.
An industrial microbiologist may be responsible for research, product testing, quality control, product development, and genetic engineering. This career path requires the completion of a post-secondary degree with classes that focus on biology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Some job placements also require that applicants possess a master's degree in microbiology as well, though this is not an industry standard.