Basic Microbiology1 Comment
What is Microbiology?
The world around us is full of organisms that are too small to be seen with naked eye-bacteria, virus, fungi, algae and protozoa. These microbes live in a wide range of habitats from hot springs to the human body and depth of ocean. They affect each and every aspects of life on earth.
We can all think of a few microbes that make us ill – the viruses that cause cold and flu, or food poisoning bacteria. However, there are many more microbes living harmlessly alongside us playing a vital role in the planet’s nutrients cycles, from fixing nitrogen and carbon dioxide at the beginning of the food chain right through to decomposing and recycling essentials nutrients at the end of it.
Microbes are also essential to the production of many foods and medicines – imagine our diet without cheese, bread, yoghurt or a world where the slightest bacterial infection or wound could prove fatal because there were no antibiotics or vaccines.
Microbes have always affected our health, food and environment and they will play an important role in the big issues that face us in the future: climate change, renewable energy resources; healthier lifestyles and controlling diseases.
What do Microbiologist do?
Because microbes have such an effect on our lives, they are a major source of interest and employment to thousands of people. Microbiologists study microbes: where they occur, their survival strategies, how they can affect us and how we can explain them.
All around our planet there are microbiologists making a difference to our lives – maybe ensuring the safety of our food or treating and preventing diseases or developing green technologies or tracking the role of microbes in climate change.
Before Microbiologist can solve the problems caused by microbes, or exploits their amazing powers, they have to find out about the detailed workings of microbial cells. The basic knowledge of genetics, cell structure and function can then be used in applied microbiology as well as in other areas of biology.
Microbiologists are essential in the fight against infectious diseases. Many work as biomedical scientists in hospitals and Health Protection Agency labs, investigating the samples of body tissues and fluids to diagnose infections, monitor treatments or track disease outbreaks. Some microbiologist work as clinical scientists in hospital and medical school laboratories where they carry out research and give scientific advice to medical staff who treat patients. Other microbiologists work on pathogens that cause diseases, such as ‘flu’ or TB, and the information they find is used by their colleagues to develop vaccines and better treatments.
Some microbiologists study how microbes live alongside other creatures in different habitats such as the oceans, salt lakes and Antarctica. They develop early warning sensors to detect pollution and use microbes to treat industrial waste. Other contributes to the worldwide research on climate change, investigating the effect of microbial processes on the composition of atmosphere and climate. Microbiologists also work with technologists and engineers to develop greener sources of energy produced from urban and industrial waste.
Without agriculture there would be no food for us to eat. Microbiologists investigate the vital role of microbes in soil. Some concentrate on plant pests and diseases, developing ways to control them. Others research the pathogens that cause diseases in farm animals. Microbiologists also use microbes to control insects’ pests and weeds, especially in developing countries.
Microbiologists work in many bioscience and food companies. They carry out research and develop new products or work in quality control to monitor manufacturing processes and check the microbiological safety of goods such as medicines, cosmetics, toiletries, biochemical and food and drink.
Where do they work?
In the lab
Universities, research institutes and industrial companies employ microbiologists to do basic, environmental, healthcare and agricultural research.
Medical Microbiologists also work in hospitals and Health Protection Agency laboratories.
Industrial microbiologist work in a range of companies – from big pharmaceutical, biochemical, biotechnology and food businesses through to smaller firms that develop biopharmaceuticals or specialist products.
Outside the lab
If you still love microbiology but find that lab-based work is not for you, there are still some great options where you can use the scientific knowledge and transferable skill you’ve acquired while studying.
Microbiologists can use their knowledge and skills in a wide range of careers in industry (marketing, technical support and regulatory affairs) education (teaching, museums and science centers), business (patent attorney or accountant) and communications (public relations, journalism and publishing).