Meet the Scientists
You may not encounter any microbiologists in your everyday activities or even know of anyone who works as a microbiologist. But the efforts of thousands of these scientists to better understand our planet’s microscopic inhabitants affect you in many ways every day.
Microbiologists’ research helps keep your food from making you sick and your drinking water clean and safe.
They track down the culprits behind mysterious new illnesses and harness microbes’ abilities to make medicines, industrial enzymes, food ingredients, and many other useful products.
Microbiologists work behind the scenes in hospital labs to pinpoint the germ making you sick so your doctor can prescribe the right treatment, and they figure out the basic workings of infectious microbial cells so that drug makers can devise potent new medicines.
They solve environmental problems by using microbes in bioremediation, and they explore oceans, caves, deserts, and even Antarctica's ice to learn how microbes affect the workings of our planet.
You might expect to find microbiologists working at research universities or in the sprawling complexes of pharmaceutical companies. But microbiologists also work in the food industry, water treatment, agriculture, pollution control, biotechnology, energy development, museum preservation, and many other disciplines.
Microbiologists also find jobs in government agencies and labs, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Microbiologists can be found in a variety of settings, from the traditional laboratory to the woods.
Because there are so many different species of microbes out there and they do such very different things, no one microbiologist can study every kind of microorganism. Microbiologists and other scientists who study microbes usually focus on a particular microbe or research area.
Here are a few examples:
- Bacteriologists focus specifically on bacteria and how they help or hurt us.
- Virologists specialize in viruses and how they infect cells.
- Mycologists study fungi in particular.
- Protozoologists devote their efforts to protozoa.
- Epidemiologists investigate infectious disease outbreaks to learn what caused them and if we’re facing a deadly new microbe.
- Immunologists study how the body defends itself against microbial invaders.