Career in Microbiology
The study of microscopic organisms is called ‘microbiology’. Microbiology is a large discipline, which has a great impact on other areas of biology and general human welfare.
Microorganisms are very small organisms that are not visible through naked eye. These organisms include algae, bacteria, moulds, protozoa, yeasts and viruses. Sometimes they are even referred to as microbes and are studied under microscope, being very small in appearance.
Microorganisms are almost found everywhere and they constitute by far the largest group of living things existing on earth. Our existence, health, food, agriculture and even industrial development are very much dependent on them. They are also source of nutrients at the base of all ecological food chains and webs. Unknowingly, man has made use of microorganism since prehistoric times, mostly in the production of food and drinks, such as leavening of bread, souring of milk and making of wine and beer etc. However, it was only in the seventeenth century that the microbial world was discovered.
The relationship between microbes and other living organisms is a great source of interest to many microbiologists, and the impact of microbes on the environment is a vast area of study. Over the years, many of the techniques developed by microbiologists have been applied to molecular and cell biology to provide the basis for study of properties of higher organisms. Indeed, modern biotechnology rests upon a microbiological foundation.
Nature of work
Many microbiologists spend at least some part of their career in the laboratory doing research. They may work on a particular aspect of microbiology, e.g. physiology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, ecology or classification, or on the applications of their findings. This type of work is carried out in universities, government and private research institutes, hospitals and many different industries.
Microbiologists study and investigate microorganisms and their relationships with man, animals and plants. Microbiology has many areas of specializations. Some of the sub-categories of microbiologists are as follows.
Medical microbiologists study the role played by microorganisms in inflicting diseases in humans and animals. They research and investigate these organisms to find ways to cure and prevent, occurrence of these diseases. Major breakthroughs have been made in this field and efforts are on all over the world to find solutions to many more dreadful diseases especially AIDS.
Public health microbiology is clearly related to medical microbiology. Public health microbiologist tries to control the spread of communicable diseases. They often monitor community food establishments had water supplies in an attempt to keep them safe and free from infectious disease agents.
India is still an agricultural economy and microbiologists play an important role in improving its size and shape i.e. the output and quality. Agricultural microbiologists work in the area of plant development, plant disease and tissue culture. They study plant diseases, the role of microorganisms in soil fertility and spoilage of farm products. Advances and inventions made in agricultural microbiology over the years have contributed in increasing agricultural output.
The field of microbial ecology is closely related to agricultural microbiology. Microbial ecologists study the relationship between microorganisms and their habitats. The study of pollution effects on microorganisms also is important because of the impact they have on the environment. Microbial ecologists are employing microorganisms in bioremediation to reduce pollution effects.
Industrial microbiologists work with industries producing products such as alcoholic beverages, amino acids, citric acids, Vitamin C and antibiotics etc. with the help of microorganisms. In industrial microbiology microorganisms are used to make products such as antibiotics, vaccines, steroids, alcohols and other solvents, vitamins, amino acids and enzymes.
Marine microbiology deals with the microorganisms present in the ocean. It is a relatively new division of microbiology and promises to be an exciting one.
General microbiology focuses on the fundamentals and basic features of microorganisms including ecology, metabolism, genetics, physiology and structure.
A wide range of opportunities for microbiologists exist in these and other related areas of employment. One of the frontier fields in life sciences, microbiology has varied applications in research and industry. While some research-based jobs abound for postgraduates in this subject, those with a doctorate are obviously in greater demand.
Microbiologists find jobs in many places like research and development laboratories of government and private hospitals, research organizations, pharmaceutical, food, beverage and chemical industries, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Lab and Universities; quality control in fermentation industries, Food and Drug Control Departments and government laboratories.
Being closely related to biotechnology, there are many similarities between them, making microbiology also a very promising career option. A steep rise in employment avenues for microbiologists is envisaged as a result of growing numbers of above-mentioned organizations.
The pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and beverage, water processing and bottling industries, swimming pools and hotels also employ microbiologists.
In the pharmaceutical sector, microbiologists study microbes and organisms that cause diseases (in humans, animals as well as plants), evaluating antibiotics and developing vaccines, manufacturing drugs by fermentation, etc.
Microbiologists could also work with manufacturers of medical disposable goods, cosmetics and antiseptics. Some openings can be found in the sales and marketing departments of manufacturing companies in these fields as well.
In municipal or public works departments, they can undertake routine testing of water supplied to industrial and domestic users. Other destinations include university departments, research councils and government-funded research institutes.
In addition to areas covered under microbiology, microbiologists can be employed as:
Research and Development Scientists
With India shifting from process patent to product patent, large pharmaceutical companies are investing in R&D. As a result, there is an employment opportunity in the area of formulation research, analytical development, clinical research and in new drug discovery. Openings for microbiologists exist in the R&D and scientific departments in industry, public sector labs like CDRL, hospitals and universities.
Microbiologists become faculty in Universities, Colleges or teachers in Schools, etc. For college teaching, a master's degree may be acceptable along with qualification of CSIR - NET, but a doctorate opens more doors. Teaching and research at the university level and high level employment with good promotion prospects in non academic research institutes, private industry and government agencies usually require a Ph.D.
Self-employed microbiologist by setting up microbiological laboratories of their own can help in diagnosing the disease and researchers direct their own research. There are large, private research institutes that conduct Microbiological/epidemiological studies for government agencies where there is a sudden outbreak of any epidemic disease. These studies focus on a wide variety of urban and metropolitan problems such as a sudden outbreak of any disease.
Microbiologist in diagnostic laboratories
Job profile consists of diagnosis of disease, identifying the pathogen, testing the efficiency of antibiotics that may help the physician to prescribe the antibiotic to the patient.
A microbiologist can help to assess the quality of milk in dairy farms, water in Mineral Water Company, soft drink industries, pharmaceutical companies, spices industries etc.
Their job profile consists of apprising the doctors with their company's products for promoting sales.
A large number of microbiology graduates are going to western countries for higher studies for which they are required to qualify GRE and TOFEL In addition postgraduate and PhD candidates go abroad to pursue PhD and Post Doctoral Research Fellow (PDF) in foreign Universities and R & D Centres respectively, which is highly paid and respected profession in Western World.
Microbiology like any other research related science field requires utmost dedication apart from having scientific and analytical temper, interest in research, observant attitude, diligence, ability to work in team of professionals, good communication skills and hard work. Good mathematical and computational skills are of added advantage.
Microbiology being a science subject can be pursued by candidates with background in science at the school level. B.Sc. and further M.Sc. courses can be taken up at the institutions and universities offering these courses. M.Sc Microbiology is offered at over 50 universities in India. In addition students can also undertake PG Diploma in Hospital Administration run by Indian Institute of Hospital Management and Research, Jaipur.
Biologists can further specialize in the study of microorganisms in the fields of their interest such as bacteriology; study of bacteria, mycology; study of fungi and virology; study of viruses. In medicine, microbiologists work in hospitals and pathological laboratories.
- Delhi University, Delhi
- Gujarat University, Gujarat
- Osmania University , Andhra Pradesh
- Panjab University, Chandigarh
- Sai College of Medical Science & Technology, Uttar Pradesh
- Sardar Patel University, Gujarat
- University of Mumbai , Mumbai
- University of Pune, Pune
- Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh
- All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
- Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education And Research, Chandigarh
- Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR), Chandigarh
- Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.