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spongebob14 07-15-2010 06:17 PM

Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Daughter is a Junior in High School. She would like to have a career in lab research on immunizations, medicines, diseases, etc. What is the best area for her undergrad, basic Biology degree, Biotech, Microbiology, Pharmacy, or other? Will she need a Masters to do this type work?

danfive 07-16-2010 03:17 AM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Microbiology, with Immunology courses.
There are Pathology and Immunology graduate degrees, yes they are necessary.

spongebob14 07-16-2010 03:06 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Thanks for the reply Dan. I ask b/c none of our local schools offer a bachelors in "Microbiology". They offer basic Biology degrees with "specializations", such as MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY TRACK. Is Molecular Biology completely different than Microbiology? Is it important to have the "microbiology" bachelors, or is that something that can wait until the Master's level?

danfive 07-20-2010 03:59 AM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by spongebob14 (Post 421539)
Thanks for the reply Dan. I ask b/c none of our local schools offer a bachelors in "Microbiology". They offer basic Biology degrees with "specializations", such as MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY TRACK. Is Molecular Biology completely different than Microbiology? Is it important to have the "microbiology" bachelors, or is that something that can wait until the Master's level?

Molecular Biology is completely different than Microbiology.

Molecular will focus on mechanisms that take place inside cells and organelles, membranes, etc.
Microbiology focuses on cells that make up micro-organisms, including pathogens (viruses and bacteria), their unique life-cycles and biochemistry (huge system for distinguishing and classifying the microorganisms; which in advanced studies is useful for medical treatments that attack that biochemistry).

Microbiology is an older science and the better track (end up with better professors, literature, etc); well suited for attaining a mastery level and moving on to specialize in pathology or medicine. It's a path well traveled, lot of experts and good role models, specially those that segue to health fields.

Molecular biology is the new stuff, a lot of new discoveries no real gold standard for when you know enough molecular biology, tend to get lost in all the details. It tends to overlap and lead to careers near biophysics, biochemistry, genetics, biological chemistry, and biotech; kinda leads you far from from Immunology, pathology, medicine.

danfive 07-20-2010 04:20 AM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by spongebob14 (Post 421539)
Is it important to have the "microbiology" bachelors, or is that something that can wait until the Master's level?

Microbiology is great as a Bachelor's and can open the door to graduate degrees in Pathology, Immunology, Pharmacology, Molecular Biology and so on.

Biology w/ this or that track probably means bachelors in cell bio or biochem, just the way that the degree naming system is for that university.

It wouldn't be easy to go from mol bio or biochem to a master's in microbiology; you end up with a strange mindset when your focus is on components and mechanisms within the cell. And people who choose from applicants know this.

Microbio teaches people to think of the unique cell features whether morphological, biochemical, genetic and combine it with enviromental data or classification system----great training for a brain that will go into medicine or medical research.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All that said, the discussed degree tracks probably share nearly 3 years of identical undergrad coursework, and the students definitely understand each other.

The key is mastery, that whole 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert thing.

I've seen people with a BS in Micro go a lot further in their careers than people with a BS in Molecular. Same as a BS in Chem goes further than a BS in Biology. By career I mean anything after the BS like internships, grad school, professional school, industry.

Warthaug 07-20-2010 04:12 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by danfive (Post 421593)
Microbiology is an older science and the better track (end up with better professors, literature, etc); well suited for attaining a mastery level and moving on to specialize in pathology or medicine. It's a path well traveled, lot of experts and good role models, specially those that segue to health fields.

I'm assuming you're a microbiologist; that, or a comedian.

Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that cellular/molecular biology is the current "hot topic" in biology, and is the area (along with genetics) in which most major developments as expected over the next few decades. This is reflected in terms of both the funding/investment into these areas, as well as in the scientific literature. In terms of both gov funding (if the child in question is considering academical research as a career) and private investment (if considering a career in biotech or pharma), there is far more money, facilities, etc, involved in molecular and cellular biology than there is in microbiology.

Likewise, the [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click Here To Register...] all deal with cell/molecular biology - immunology, cell biology, neurology and the like. The top "pure" microbiology journal currently ranks #46 amoungst scientific journals. The top "pure" cell/molecular biology journal ranks #2 (after a physics journal, making it the top biology journal).

Quote:

Originally Posted by danfive (Post 421593)
Molecular biology is the new stuff, a lot of new discoveries no real gold standard for when you know enough molecular biology, tend to get lost in all the details. It tends to overlap and lead to careers near biophysics, biochemistry, genetics, biological chemistry, and biotech; kinda leads you far from from Immunology, pathology, medicine.

As an individual with a bachelors in cell biology, and a PhD in immunology, I can say the above is 100% wrong. Cell/molecular biology is a very broad field, in which an individual can develop a range of interests. Because the skills/knowledge learned is fairly general, it is applicable to many fields. In my case, I study the cell & molecular biology of immune cells called "phagocytes", and how the cell/molecular biology drives diseases such as atherosclerosis and autoimmunity. The same career path could have led to interests/jobs in neurology, endocrinology, biophysics, biotech, genetics and many other active and interesting fields.

At the end of the day, cell/molecular biology is human biology. And there will always be more interest, and money, for human biology verses bacterial biology.

Bryan

Warthaug 07-20-2010 04:50 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by spongebob14 (Post 421522)
Daughter is a Junior in High School. She would like to have a career in lab research on immunizations, medicines, diseases, etc. What is the best area for her undergrad, basic Biology degree, Biotech, Microbiology, Pharmacy, or other? Will she need a Masters to do this type work?

While she's kind of young to be making such decisions, there are some general suggestions I can make. For the record, I have a PhD in immunology, a bachelors in cellular and molecular biology, and am currently employed as a researcher in an academic facility.

It sounds like your daughter is interested in pursuing clinical research - as in research that directly seeks to generate cures/treatments for diseases. The career path for this can be markedly different from the one I took and Dan described (which is a basic sciences career) - or it can be very similar. I realize at your daughters age she probably doesn't have a firm plan in place, but I hope I can shed a little light.

There is, in essence, two routes into clinical research. The first is to become a medical doctor, and then develop your own research program after that. Many universities now have joint MD/PhD program intended to train people for this kind of clinical work, although some people will do a straight MD and follow that up with a "mini-PhD" during their residency instead. If this is your daughters intended route a degree in biology is ideal, but I would avoid over-specialization. A detailed knowledge of biochemistry, cell biology, microbiology, etc would not be as useful (at least in terms of getting into medical school) as a general knowledge of all these areas (plus physiology, anatomy, etc). Most uni's offer a general biology degree, without specialization, which are good for this route. Some uni's offer pre-med degrees, which are ideal.

The second route is the one I've taken - that is, a basic sciences route. In this case your daughter will need to specialize in one area of biology. There is no real "right answer" here - microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, epidemiology, biochemistry, etc, all have many job opportunities and interesting research subjects. What is more important is for her to specialize in an area she finds interesting - science can be a hard career path (particularity for women) and if you don't love what you do, you're not going to succeed. Probably the most important think she can do during her bachelors (this is true as well, if she intends on following the MD route) is get lab experience - either through volunteering in a research lab, or through doing a formal undergraduate research project (a "class" offered by many universities). This will make her a more attractive candidate when applying for grad (or med) school, and will let her experience the lab environment before committing to anything major.

One thing I would bring up, as it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, is your daughter should take a course or two on effective communications while in undergrad. Regardless of which career route she takes (including non-science careers), the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is probably the most important skill she can learn. I've know people who were fantastic scientists (far better than I), but whose careers failed simply because they could not communicate their findings with others.

As for how much of an education she needs, the answer is "it depends on what she wants to do". If she wants to run her own research lab/program (either in a university, government lab, or company) she will need a PhD. If she wants to work in more of a lab technician/data analysis role a masters is sufficient. Unfortunately, a bachelors degree offers few possibilities these days.

Another route you may not have considered, but one which is rewarding financially, is management in phama/biotech. Generally, these companies are looking for someone with a masters or PhD PLUS an MBA. I have a friend who went this route, and currently works for Eli Lilly, in a role which he greatly enjoys.

There are many other career paths, other than lab researcher, open to people with masters and PhDs in biological disciplines. Some other choices are:

1) High school science teacher. This is one of the few jobs where a bachelors (plus teachers certificate) is sufficient.

2) University/college lecturer (teacher). Generally requires an MD or PhD.

3) Clinical trial specialist. There are many jobs involved in running clinical trials - everything from trial design, to patient monitoring, to statistical analysis. These employ a large number of people, with a broad range of expertise. Degree requirements are generally MD, masters or PhD.

4) Medical sciences liaisons. These people work for companies and universities. Their job is usually to manage interactions between scientists and non-scientists. This can be anything from helping departments in a company work together, through to public relations type work. Usually requires a masters or PhD, plus good communication skills.

5) Investment specialist. Basically, you work for investment firms, generally investigating biotech and pharma firms as potential investments. Generally requires as masters, and some business background is a bonus.

6) There are a lot of other options, I just cannot think of them right now.

I've already said this once, but its worth repeating. The most important part of pursuing a career in science is to find an area of science you enjoy and find interesting. A deep interest and love of what you do will, in the long run, serve you far better than any particular combination of degrees (although you'll need those degrees to land a job).

Lastly, most universities offer career/degree counseling; it may be worth contacting your local university to see if they can give your daughter some guidance. Also, some universities and companies have summer programs where high school students get to work in labs. Check with your local options to see if they have such programs - most are restricted to kids in grades 11 and 12, but those programs are worth pursuing once she gets to those grades.

Bryan

Warthaug 07-20-2010 05:14 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Crap, I see I didn't answer the topic of this threads title; that being the difference between the various disciplines. I'd point out that there is both a lot of overlap between these areas, as well as no real firm definition. none the less, the long & short of it:

Microbiology: the study of microorganisms such as bacteria and archea. Other microorganisms (viruses, fungi, protezonans) sometimes get lumped into this category, but usually they get lumped into cell biology as they are eukaryotes, rather than prokaryotes. Microbiology can involve everything from the study of disease-causing microbes, to the study of agriculturally important microbes, to the study of environmental microbes. Microbiology is a HUGE field, with many sub-specializations. Some of them are quite hot, some are relegated to the backwaters of biological research.

Cell Biology: The study of eukariotic cells (i.e. the cells in you and I, as well as other animals, plants, parasites, etc). This is a very broad field, encompassing everything from genetics, to molecular biology, to systems biology, to biophysics, to stem cells. I'll address each of these separately below.

Genetics: the study of genes, how they influence biology, make organisms, and cause disease. Currently a very hot topic; especially whole-genome analysis looking for disease-causing/preventing genes.

Molecular biology: the study of the molecules that make up cells, and how those molecules come together to forms cells, organisms, cause diseases, etc. Lots of hot topics in this field, everything from the molecular basis of diseases, through to how genes are translated into whole organisms. Its a huge field, with many very active areas of research. A lot of drug and vaccine research stems from this area.

Systems biology: taking genetic an molecular data, and using it to try an model (in a computer) biological systems, cells and one day, whole organisms. A very new field, so its hip to be in it right now. No guarantees as to its long-term value, impact or "staying power". May be the best thing since sliced bread, or it may be a fad.

Biophysics: the study of the physics driving biology. Studies everything from force generation in single proteins, right through to the physics of movement of whole organisms. I have a biophysicist buddy whose trying to connect neurons to computer chips, with the hopes of getting them to fly planes!

Stem cells: the study of stem cells; basically cells capable of making other cell types, tissues, or whole organisms.

Outside of the "cell biology" fold are other disciplines, many of which overlap with cell biology and microbiology:

Biochemistry: the study of the nuts and bolts of biology. These people study how single enzymes preform their functions, etc.

Immunology: the study of how our immune system works. Generally concentrates on the cell biology side, but some groups are (finally!) combining this with microbiology to get a better understanding of immunology, in the context of host-pathogen interactions.

Neurology: the study of the brain and neurons. Lots of cell biology, plus a lot of physiology.

Endocrinology; the study of hormones and hormone-based disease (diabetes, obesity, etc). Lots of cell biology, plus some immunology and physiology.

There's a lot more disciplines that I simply don't have the time to list. Most are like the ones I listed last; they study one organ/disease, and use a combination of different forms of biology to understand those organs/diseases.

None is "better" than the other; only different. As I mentioned in my last post, a far more important consideration is what career path your daughter wants to take, and what she finds interesting.

Bryan

EDIT: Forgot biotechnology

Biotechnology is a more of a skill than a discipline. It refers, in general, to techniques used to modify organisms. Examples would include making pesticide-resistant crops through to producing bioplastics and biofuels. I have not worked at uni which has a dedicated biotech program, nor do I work with/employ anyone with that background, so I cannot give you an educated opinion on the usefulness of such a degree.

That said, I frequently engage in what would be considered biotechnology in my day-to-day work (genetically modifying organisms, created altered genes, etc). At least for the kinds of research I do, a dedicated degree would not be an asset. However, a knowledge of the biotech techniques, added to a degree in a more relevant discipline, would be an asset.

danfive 07-20-2010 06:36 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Warthaug (Post 421602)
I'm assuming you're a microbiologist; that, or a comedian.

Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that cellular/molecular biology is the current "hot topic" in biology, and is the area (along with genetics) in which most major developments as expected over the next few decades.

No, no kidding in my posts. I see a lot of people lost between the BS and professional schools; but it is easy to see who is getting in and who isn't. My advice isn't from the academic ranks its from the real world. I don't want to make any subfield more prestigious or fight for the respect it deserves. I'm just trying to help a young person accomplish her goal. Microbiology is a great stepping stone, Microbiology requires a lot of mastery by the end of the BS and that is recognized. Those graduates are recognized as having learned this catalog of information/skills. The tracks to venture into Pathology or Food Science (to take the wide spectrum) are very well-beaten paths with huge amounts of support to make sure you are successful, basically the specialization is like an MBA program, you enroll, you learn and you are accredited.

Not to knock Mol. Bio (most of what you said is true, I disagree with your opinion), but Mol. Bio is difficult, the tracks for specialization are new and not well-delineated. Mol Bio can take you anywhere, which is the danger, it can get a young person lost. Plus we all know that Mol Bio undergrad lab is there to expose the students to techniques, not to get mastery of techniques and definitely no mastery of skills (just won't get the time).
Everyone knows that and everybody challenges a BS Mol. biol grad with the question what are you going to do with it? Because it is not clear.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Warthaug (Post 421602)
As an individual with a bachelors in cell biology, and a PhD in immunology, I can say the above is 100% wrong. Cell/molecular biology is a very broad field, in which an individual can develop a range of interests. Because the skills/knowledge learned is fairly general, it is applicable to many fields. In my case, I study the cell & molecular biology of immune cells called "phagocytes", and how the cell/molecular biology drives diseases such as atherosclerosis and autoimmunity.

Bryan

Just difference of opinion, I stick to what I said.

spongebob14 07-20-2010 07:03 PM

Re: Difference b/t Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biotechnology
 
Wow--lots of great opinions. I def have a better overall understanding of the diff b/t the fields. Just to clarify, my daughter is in 11th grade, a Junior in HIGH School. She has a 30 ACT and over a 4.0 and is 2nd in her class.

She "chose" MicroB because she would like to work in research on immunology, developing pharmaceuticals, "cure" diseases, etc.

Our local university (SIUE) offers the BS in biology with the following specializations Integrative Biology; Ecology, Evolution, and Environment; Genetic Engineering; Medical Science; Medical Technology; Secondary Education.

Another local university (UMSL) offers a BS in Biochem/Biotech or a BS in Biology.

A prestigous private college near us in St. Louis (Washington Univ) offers a BS in Biology with the following tracks: ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION TRACK; GENOMICS AND COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY TRACK; MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY TRACK; NEUROSCIENCE TRACK.

The Univ offering BS in Microbiology is SIUC (So Ill Carbondale), which is a lower tier school.

What would you have your child do?


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