Main Topic: Environment and Society
Secondary Topic: Human Geography
Overview: Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments. Many microbiologists work in research and development conducting basic research or applied research. The aim of basic research is to increase scientific knowledge. An example is growing strains of bacteria in various conditions to learn how they react to those conditions. Other microbiologists conduct applied research and develop new products to solve particular problems. For example, microbiologists may aid in the development of genetically engineered crops, better biofuels, or new vaccines. It is increasingly common for microbiologists to work on teams with technicians and scientists in other fields, because many scientific research projects involve multiple disciplines. The following are examples of types of microbiologists:
Bacteriologists study the growth, development, and other properties of bacteria, including the positive and negative effects that bacteria have on plants, animals, and humans. Clinical microbiologists perform a wide range of clinical laboratory tests on specimens collected from plants, humans, and animals to aid in detection of disease. Environmental microbiologists study how microorganisms interact with the environment and each other. Industrial microbiologists study and solve problems related to industrial production processes. Mycologists study the properties of fungi such as yeast and mold. Parasitologists study the life cycle of parasites, the parasite-host relationship, and how parasites adapt to different environments. Public health microbiologists examine specimens to track, control, and prevent communicable diseases and other health hazards. Virologists study the structure, development, and other properties of viruses and any effects viruses have on infected organisms. Many people with a microbiology background become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.
Geographic skills are important for microbiologists. Most of the natural phenomena which microbiologists study have variations and trends based on location, and they need to be able to think geographically in order to effectively understand these organisms or processes. Microbiologists could use geographic information systems (GIS), modeling software, and other computer programs to analyze and predict locational patterns of diseases, viruses, microorganisms, and industrial contamination.
Geographers at work: Environmental geographers, biogeographers
Recommended College Courses: Environmental geography, biogeography, geographic information science, remote sensing, natural resource use and management, human geography, physical geography
Skills: Environmental mapping and modeling, geographic information systems, computer and database systems, spatial analysis, map reading and interpretation
Occupation Group: Life, Physical, and Social Science
Learn more about Microbiologists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/microbiologists.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson