Career and Job Search Guide

Biologist (Biological Scientist)

Biological scientists study living organisms and how they interact with the environment. They conduct research on fundamental life processes to create new products and services. The majority specialize in either zoology or microbiology.

Biological scientists study bacteria and viruses to develop knowledge which could improve human health. Biological scientists usually conduct research for government agencies, private laboratories, and universities.

To obtain funding, research scientists submit grant proposals to government agencies, universities, and private companies interested in their research. Biological scientists specializing in applied conduct research to develop new drugs and treatments, increase agricultural production, and develop alternative energy sources such as biofuels. These scientists have fewer research options since their research is usually paid for by companies developing new products. Biological scientists often have to brief non-scientists whom decide whether to allocate funding for a project. Scientists often work with business managers, engineers, and technicians while some work with customers.

Physiologists, zoologists, and botanists conduct research in laboratories, sometimes experimenting on plants or animals. Some scientists conduct field research such as botanists in rain forests or ecologists in fire damaged forests. Marine biologists study organisms found in salt water sources. Advances in the study of genetics and organic molecules have increased the demand for biological scientists specializing in biotechnology. Biological scientists can alter the genetics of plants and animals to increase productivity and resistance to disease. Biologists specializing in recombining DNA have developed growth hormones and human insulin, in addition to other helpful substances.

Many biological scientists work on genome projects, research where genes and chromosomes are isolated to discover characteristics and functions. This research has led to improved understanding of disease and predisposition to health problems, such as sickle cell anemia.

The majority of biologists specialize in one type of organism or biological process.

Aquatic biologists specialize in plant, micro-organism, and animal water life. Marine biologists specialize in salt water organisms while limnologists specialize in organisms living in fresh water. Marine biologists spend most of their time studying biochemical processes, natural functions occurring in cells. Marine biologists are often confused with oceanographers, scientists specializing in the physical characteristics of oceans.

Biochemists specialize in an organism's chemical composition. They study the chemical reactions associated with metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Botanists specialize in plants. Some specialize in all types of plant life such as fungi, algae, lichens, ferns, mosses, flowering plants, and conifers. Some specialize in classification, plant processes, plant part function, and plant diseases.

Microbiologists specialize in microscopic organisms such as algae, fungi, or bacteria. Their areas of specialty include virology, study of viruses, bioinformatics, using computers to study organisms at a molecular level, immunology, study of immune systems. Others work in specific industries such as agricultural, food, or industrial microbiology. The research conducted by microbiologists leads to improved understanding of disease and cell reproduction. Physiologists specialize in plant and animal organs and life systems. Physiologists usually specialize in reproduction, respiration, photosynthesis, and organ systems.

Biophysicists specialize in how the principles of physics, such as mechanical and electrical energy, relate to organisms. They may be specialists in neuroscience or bioinformatics.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists specialize in animals. They study an organism's origin, life processes, and behavior. Some study animals in their natural environment while others dissect animal carcasses and collect biological materials. Zoologists are usually categorized by the types of animals they study; for example, ornithologists study birds and ichthyologists study fish.

Ecologists study the relationships between organisms and their natural environments. They study such things as population, temperature, and altitude, as well as numerous other factors. An ecologist might collect data to determine air, food, water, and soil quality.

Work environment. Biological scientists usually do not work in hazardous areas. Biologists working with hazardous materials do so in laboratories, where strict safety measures must be followed. Biologists such as ecologists, zoologists, and botanists working in the field, need to be in good physical condition, and many will have to work in harsh climates.

Marine biologists work in laboratories and research ships, while some work underwater. Marine biologists collect specimens from the ocean, but many still spend a lot of time in an office or laboratory compiling data and conducting research.

Biological scientists need grant money to conduct their research. They often work long, stressful hours to meet deadlines and have specific requirements when writing grant proposals.

Biologists work regular 40 hour weeks but often work odd hours while conducting research.