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Molecular Biology: Education, Careers & Jobs
Molecular Biology: Education, Career & Jobs
Molecular Biology is the branch of biology that explores the macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins in a living cell. The field overlaps with several other disciplines such as biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology, chemistry, genetics and computer science to investigate the structure, formation, regulation and functions of macromolecules. Although the field was started early in 1930s, it fully surfaced in 1960 following the discovery of the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) by Francis H. Crick and James D. Watson. In the year 1962, Drs. Crick and Watson were awarded Noble Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their discovery. Application of molecular biology is wide, for e.g., to diagnose and treat human diseases, to develop novel drugs, and to develop disease resistant crops.
There are several universities in U.S. and elsewhere-offering bachelor degree in molecular biology. Students in bachelor program of molecular biology focus basic structure and function of macromolecules. The course also incorporates chemistry, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, mathematics, and computer science. Students are also trained in biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory techniques such as DNA & RNA isolation, purification, Western blotting, etc.
The master degree in molecular biology is truly interdisciplinary and interdepartmental program. Students from life science discipline like biochemistry, genetics, or microbiology can directly enroll for master’s program in molecular biology. Students in master’s program are also expected to do literature survey, develop independent research project, participate in journal clubs and make presentations.
The Ph.D. program in molecular biology prepares students for a research-oriented career in academia or industry. Students in Ph.D. program will undergo rotations in core courses and laboratory techniques. This prepares students to pursue original independent research work. Faculty members of the institute/department supervise students to gain proficiency in specialized areas of their interest. Typically, the Ph.D. program is around 5 years, and all Ph.D. students will receive financial support for tuition fee and stipend for living expenses.
Students in bachelor, master and Ph.D. programs, also have some teaching responsibilities like assisting supervisors/advisors in graduate level teaching and in laboratory courses.
Molecular biologists are at the forefront of scientific discovery. The career projections are bright for students trained in the molecular biology field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of biological scientists that include molecular biologists is projected to grow 21 percent over the 2008–18 decade.
Molecular biologists in university, industry or in hospital spend most of their time doing research in laboratory settings. They use a wide range of techniques to perform the experiments and some of the experiments take long hours. Also, they spend portion of the time in analyzing the results of the experiments and writing reports.
Job opportunities for molecular biologists are quite high, and it depends on the level of education and experiences one possess. Molecular biologists are hired as researchers and technicians in hospital labs, universities, forensics labs, veterinary field, diagnostic labs, pharmaceutical companies, food industry, environment pollution control board, biotechnology companies etc. Molecular biology applications are extensively used in the fields of biochemistry, genetics, ecology and virology. So these fields provide good opportunities for prospective molecular biologists. Additionally, molecular biologists can also apply for teaching/instructor positions, and can find jobs in journalism field, government agencies and in legal environment (e.g., patent).
Molecular biologist positions are advertised in well-known magazines, Science (www.sciencemag.org)and Nature (www.nature.com).These two magazines provide free onlinejob listings of both academia and industry. The jobs can be searched by various criteria such as title, location, position, specialty, employer and company name. Registered users can also receive free email alerts for positions of particular interest.
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