Microbiologist

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Bacteriologist
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Scientific or AnalyticClerical or OrganisingNature or RecreationSkill Level 5Skill Level 6

Microbiologists study microscopic forms of life such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, algae and fungi to increase scientific knowledge and develop medical, veterinary, industrial, environmental and other practical applications. The central aim of microbiology is to study how microbes interact with the world   FutureGrowthModeratearound them and how we can make use of these interactions. This includes solving important problems in medicine, agriculture and industry.

The research possibilities for a microbiologist are many and varied. They can study microbes that spoil food, help plants grow, make medicines or cause diseases. Microbiologists may also work as university lecturers or government advisers on their field of research.

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Knowledge, skills and attributes

  • enjoy and have aptitude for science and research
  • able to think logically and analytically
  • able to carry out detailed and accurate work
  • good communication skills
  • able to think creatively and solve problems
  • able to work as part of a team.



Duties and Tasks

Microbiologists may perform the following tasks: Microbiologist

  • develop products, such as antibiotics, detergents or cosmetics, that either combat diseases caused by pathogenic micro-organisms or harness the positive capabilities of micro-organisms
  • test samples from patients, isolating and identifying the microbes that cause illness, examining their susceptibility to antibiotics and giving advice on appropriate treatment
  • prevent and control the spread of harmful microbes in hospitals, the food industry and the general population
  • advise the government on public health policies
  • examine natural products for their ability to inhibit the growth of dangerous microbes and apply their findings to the medical and food industries
  • investigate the potential of microbes to improve human and animal health through nutrition
  • develop and improve fermented drinks and foods, such as beer, wine, cheese and yoghurt
  • research the microbiology of plants and use microbes to control pests, weeds and animal diseases
  • study DNA and the use of bacteria to introduce specially engineered genes into an organism in order to fight disease or to change a specific feature of the organism
  • use their knowledge of microbiology to minimise the environmental impact of production and clean up existing pollution
  • investigate the ways in which micro-organisms can be used to improve and enhance products that impact on quality of life, such as food and beverages.

 

Working conditions

Microbiologists usually work in laboratories with a range of equipment, from culture samples in petri dishes to sophisticated computer software. Working conditions are usually clean and comfortable, but may pose some danger to health and safety, given the types of organisms that microbiologists often work with. Some microbiologists may work in non-laboratory based areas such as agricultural sites when collecting samples. Others may work as teachers in a university classroom or advising government departments. Working days are often long, especially at the beginning of one's career. There is little travel required for microbiologists.

Tools and technologies

Microbiologists work with a range of technologies. These include microscopes used to study microbe cultures and various laboratory apparatus used to test tissue samples. These samples can vary widely depending on the area of research, and can include anything from honey to human blood. Computer programs which analyse microbes are also used. Standard word processing and presentation computer software is also used to write reports and deliver findings to an audience.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a microbiologist, you usually need to study a degree in science, majoring in microbiology and immunology, or biomedical science or food science and technology.

 

 

Bacteriologist
Research and Development

Clerical or OrganisingNature or RecreationAnalytic or ScientificSkill Level 5Skill Level 6

Bacteriology is the study of microorganisms and their effects on animals. Bacteriologists study and investigate a group of single-celled micro-organisms that are classed as bacteria. About 10,000 species of bacteria have been identified and new ones are being discovered every day. Pneumonia, diphtheria, scarlet fever and many wound and childbirth infections are caused by bacteria. FutureGrowthModerate

Bacteriologists monitor the ecology, metabolism and reproduction of these organisms. Bacteriologists may work closely with other scientists to conduct research experiments and learn more about microorganism behavior. A bacteriologist is responsible for studying various kinds of bacteria, which are constantly changing and evolving.

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Specialisations: Bacteriologists may specialize in a particular field, such as marine or veterinary bacteriology. These professionals use their academic knowledge and working experience to review bacteria growth and its effects on animals and the ecosystem.

Knowledge, skills and attributes      

  • Considerable knowledge of bacteriology and the techniques and procedures of laboratory analysis.

  • Considerable knowledge of the basic principles of laboratory science.

  • Ability to supervise the work of subordinate technical personnel.

  • Ability to assemble material and present data with clarity and scientific accuracy.

  • Ability to exercise good judgement in appraising situations and making decisions.   

  • Attention to detail, as bacteriologist will need to work methodically and to a high level of precisions

  • Written communication skills, as bacteriologists will need to write reports that present their findings

  • Time-management, as bacteriologists will need to be able to work to tight deadlines

  • Problem-solving skills, are bacteriologists will need to use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex problems  

 

Bacteria growing
(Source: PathWest)

Duties and Tasks

The role of a bacteriologist varies depending on the area in which they work:

Industry - bacteriologists work in companies manufacturing pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, food and drink, home and personal care products, and consumer goods.

Research - where bacteriologists study a particular genus or species. This work may be new and untried, and often techniques are selected by the researcher. Researchers may work in hospitals, universities and private companies.


Pharmaceutical bacteriologists monitor drugs, bacteria and an animal's health in order to determine the effects of the drug on both the bacteria and the animal. For example, bacteriologists may begin a study by placing an antibiotic in a bacterial culture. These professionals then observe and record their results over a specified period of time. Drugs that are reported successful in this trial may then be tested on infected animals.

Bacteriologists may also test the levels of bacteria, toxins or contamination present in food. These professionals work for food processors or governmental departments responsible for ensuring food safety. In this role, bacteriologists are responsible for planning and coordinating laboratory analysis including schedules for experimentation and observation.

Marine bacteriologists collect samples of animals to test for contamination. Bacteriologist may then dissect the animals and use sophisticated microscopes and other equipment to evaluate levels of pathogens and microbes. These professionals may also coordinate their work with other scientists and environmental agencies.

In all areas the work involves the interpretation and analysis of findings, and may include:

  • Designing and conducting experiments on bacteria

  • Understanding health and safety issues surrounding working with bacteria

  • Making observations and drawing conclusions

  • Writing reports and scientific papers

  • Presenting papers at scientific meetings and conferences with other scientists, including geneticists

Working conditions

They typically do their research in a laboratory, mostly for government or pharmaceutical agencies. Bacteriologist plan and conduct laboratory experiments, as well as record and analyze data. Bacteriologists may work for pharmaceutical companies, developing drugs and vaccines, as well as for government agencies analyzing food and water for contamination.

Bacteriologists usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Evening and weekend work may be required for fieldwork or some experiments. When approaching a research deadline, for example, they may have to work overtime.

Bacteriologists collect different samples from plants, drugs, animals, and other things to test for bacteria. They also study cultures or controlled cultivations of bacteria. Safety precautions must strictly be abided by. Bacteriologists work in laboratories or factories, or out in the field. All bacteriologists must wear protective clothing in laboratories. This may include approved laboratory coats, gloves, masks and eye protection, or even an all-over protective suit. Microbes are classified as biohazardous substances so bacteriologists must follow strict health and safety regulations.

Bacteriologists may sit or stand at a bench or piece of equipment for long periods of time. The job might involve travel to meetings and conferences.

Bacteriologists are likely to work in a multidisciplinary team with other scientists, including geneticists, biochemists, microbiologists and chemical engineers.

Education and training/entrance requirements

A bachelor's degree is a typical requirement for bacteriologists, though a Ph.D. is necessary in order to conduct independent research or work through a university.

Employment Opportunities

Bacteriologists will begin their career working under and experienced scientist. As they develop their knowledge and skill they can progress to becoming head scientists. At this level, they will be able to instruct other scientists and lead projects.

 

Did You Know?

The cells in your skin act as a "freshness seal" against bacteria. Some bacteria and spores that land on your skin die due to the natural bacterial flora found on your skin. If your body didn't produce these substances you would wake up in the morning with a layer of mould growing on your skin!

Although lacking distinct nuclear structures (common to the cells of "higher" organisms such as plants and animals), bacteria are able to reproduce successfully and transfer genetic information from one generation to the next.

Bacteria are used to make many of the dairy products you enjoy, including yogurt, cheese, and milk.

There are more bacterial cells in your body than there are human body cells. Dead or weakened bacteria and virus are used for making helpful vaccines.

Birds and other animals are common sources of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria such as Salmonellaand Campylobacter.

Campylobacter is actually a group of bacteria that can create illness in humans and is a common cause of a malady frequently called "food poisoning".

Bacteria

Bacteria are the cause of diseases such as tetanus. Many bacterial diseases can be treated with specialized molecular compounds, known collectively as antibiotics.

By breaking down dead organic matter like trees and other plants, bacteria help to make the nutrients available again to other living organisms.

Scientists estimate that bacteria produce nearly half the oxygen found in the atmosphere.

Some types of bacteria are used to break down oil after ecologically damaging oil spills.

Helpful bacteria are used to purify water at swage treatment plants.

Some bacteria help our bodies with digestion and to produce needed vitamins. These bacteria also help us by destroying pathogenic bacteria that invade our bodies.

The air is full of bacteria. Some bacteria spend their whole lives in the atmosphere, reproducing and growing in the clouds above our heads.

Bacteria love to live where the living is easy. Anything with dead or decaying matter is a great home for bacteria. We humans have millions of bacteria living in and on our bodies including our skin, our mouths, our intestines, and our stomachs.

(Source: National Research Council Canada)

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