Molecular biology, the study of biology at the molecular level, is a challenging branch of science focuses on the structure and function of the molecules that form the basis of life. Pretty heady stuff! What do molecular biologists do? They explore cells, their characteristics and parts, chemical processes, and how molecules control cellular activity and growth. They frequently focus on certain types of molecules or work to define the biological processes that cause genetic defects.
Majoring in this field prepares students for a wide range of careers in scientific research, medicine, bioengineering, and biotechnology. You’ll find molecular biologists in government agencies such as the EPA, the NIH, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that need scientists for a variety of important research functions. In the private sector, molecular biologists are needed in field of biotechnology to improve therapies, vaccines, drugs, and medical diagnostic testing. They assist in the design of environmental biotechnological products, which are used to clean up hazardous waste. In agriculture, molecular biologists work to create disease-resistant genetically-engineered crops. In the pharmaceutical industry, jobs are available in the design and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines. There are countless other employment options, including writing and reporting on scientific policy, biological and medical illustration, and forensic science. In education, majoring in molecular biology is great preparation to become a high school chemistry or biology teacher. With a doctoral degree, molecular biologists can teach at the university level while performing cutting-edge research.
Some college programs focus on preparing students for medical school while others prepare students for careers in the biotechnology industry. Choose a college consistent with your career plans. To enhance job prospects, look for colleges that offer “certificate programs” for specialized lab techniques, such as cell culture and DNA sequencing and synthesis for added research experience. For more information, visit the website of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This organization publishes scientific journals and supports research funding and education. Another helpful site is www.cellbio.com, the Cell and Molecular Biology Online Informational Resource.