Molecular biologists are detectives at the microscopic level. They investigate how DNA directs the growth of molecules and living beings, and how these building blocks are affected by disease and the environment. A molecular biologist can work at a large variety of places, including universities, research organizations and government agencies.
A molecular biologist spends the majority of his time conducting research, whether he works at a university or for the lab of a large pharmaceutical corporation. His work is intensive and involves long hours in front of a microscope, studying such things as DNA replication and protein complexes. For example, one molecular biologist from the Sloan-Kettering Institute studies how certain enzymes help keep DNA from unwinding. The results of molecular biologists' research has long-range implications for health, medicine and technology.
Education is another important focus of a molecular biologist, whether full time or in addition to his laboratory research. The biologist might teach graduate level or medical school classes to help other budding molecular biologists learn the intricacies of the genome and the latest discoveries about DNA. Or a molecular biologist might teach undergraduate classes at a university or community college, helping younger students decide where they want to focus their future studies.
Writing is another key component to a molecular biologist's work. By publishing results of his research in a peer-reviewed journal, a molecular biologist can gain tenure as a professor or additional funding for his laboratory research. His work can also help advance the field of molecular biology and gain him respect as an expert in a particular niche of the field.
Forensics is a field that includes research and writing, but involves work in a field completely different from where a molecular biologist might typically work. Forensics duties typically stem from government jobs, such as with the FBI. These molecular biologists may use DNA extraction techniques to identify bones in mass graves, for example. Or they may develop new DNA protocols for identifying victims of crimes.
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