What is a molecular microbiologist?

February 16, 2017

Every time someone asks me “What I’m doing for a living?”, I have two choices to answer: First, is “A SCIENTIST”, and then I get all the “WOW’s” for blowing up half of the lab (yes, yes that’s mostly Chemistry Laboratories). ”So, you are working on cancer, right?” – that’s another question follow the WOW’s if I will not confirm the Chemistry degree. My second option, however, is “A MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGIST” and that usually finish the conversations with annoying silence, big eyes and consternation on the faces… “Well… So, what are you doing, again?”.

That’s why I decided to write this short post to explain who is a molecular microbiologist, what he/ she does, why is important to have few people with this degree around and I going to describe also few types of microbiologist that are present in the industry.

According to Google.com “The Microbiologist” is a scientist focused on research on microorganisms like bacteria, algae, fungi and parasites and also non-living pathogens like viruses and prions. The main role of microbiologists is to study those organisms and non-living pathogens in context not only diseases that they can cause in humans animals and plants, but also as a subject of agriculture, food industry or medical treatments.
I think the most known type of Microbiologist is Medical Microbiologist, responsible for taking samples of you or your beloved pets. They process later the samples to identify the cause of infection, resistance to antibiotics or other important information necessary for your GP or Vet to treat you or your pet, well and successfully. You can find them in most of the clinics and hospitals, sometimes they share the laboratory with Medical Analytics. Both types are highly related.

Another type of microbiologist is found especially in factories and industrial laboratories (Food, Water, Pharma or Cosmetic) are an Industrial Microbiologists. The main role of such a microbiologist is to provide the batch, instruments, machinery or water, usually, daily check-up in the factories, making sure they are free of the microorganisms. That practice prevents a disease outcome after the”infected” batch or water would get to the potential consumers. Another function, exclusively established in Food Industry is to take care or prepare a special micro batch, made from selected microorganisms dedicated to processing ingredients for beer, your favorite yogurt or wine.

Less known type is Environmental Microbiologist, common in the fields, mountains, and even found on Arctic ice. They main job is to identify the new species of the microorganisms in different areas, characterize them and catalog the variety. Very often the Microbiologists are responsible for checking the balance in the environment, especially after some environmental disasters like oil spills or heavy metal contaminations. In those critical situations, with cooperation with engineers and government, they often use microorganisms to reduce pollution and impact on soil and water. The process is called remediation. Also, the Microbiologist can provide the information of the source of the infections of the local communities, examining the water, soil or other potential places of the possible infections.

In the end, a title Molecular Microbiologist is a scientist involved mostly in the basic science, trying to answer questions from the levels of the molecules involved in the reactions in the cells from microorganisms and also eventual host if it is involved in the living cycle of the particular microorganism or its pathogenicity. It is employed mostly by the universities, private science institutions or big pharma companies, to provide the knowledge about important life behaviors and molecules required for the growth and survival. That knowledge can be later on used to develop a better treatment against the pathogen, improve the processes involving the microorganisms to get better food, cosmetics products or increase the specificity of the process used to for example degrade toxic waste.

So putting together there are few types of Microbiologist in the field, providing different variety of knowledge, research, and examination that makes our life easier, cleaner or safer. However, the basic answers and knowledge about microorganisms are usually coming from forgotten or unknown Molecular Microbiologist hidden in their laboratories and that should be remembered!