A biologist is a scientist who has specialized knowledge in the field of biology, the scientific study of life. Biologists involved in fundamental research attempt to explore and further explain the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living matter. Biologists involved in applied research attempt to develop or improve more specific processes and understanding, in fields such as medicine and industry.
Biologists are interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living matter as well as the complex properties that emerge from the biophysical, biochemical, cellular and systemic interactions of living systems. Biologists conduct research using the scientific method to test the validity of a theory in a rational, unbiased and reproducible manner. This consists of hypothesis formation, experimentation and data analysis to establish the validity or invalidity of a scientific theory.
There are different types of biologists. Theoretical biologists use mathematical methods and develop models to understand phenomena and ideally predict future experimental results, while experimental biologists conceive experiments to test those predictions. Some biologists work on microorganisms, while others study multicellular organisms (including humans). Some investigate the nano or micro-scale, others emergent properties such as ecological interactions or cognition. There is much overlap between different fields of biology (e.g. zoology, microbiology, genetics and evolutionary biology) and due to the interdisciplinary nature of the field it is often difficult to classify a life scientist as only one of them. Many biological scientists work in research and development. Some conduct fundamental research to advance human knowledge of life. Furthermore, applied biological research often aids the development of solutions to problems in areas such as human health and the natural environment. Biological scientists mostly work in government, university, and private industry laboratories.
Biologists who work in basic research formulates theories and devise experiments to advance human knowledge on life including topics such as evolution, biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience and cell biology.
Biological scientists who work in applied research use instead the accomplishments gained by basic research to further knowledge in particular fields or applications. For example, this applied research may be used to develop new pharmaceutical drugs, treatments and medical diagnostic tests. Biological scientists conducting applied research and product development in private industry may be required to describe their research plans or results to non-scientists who are in a position to veto or approve their ideas. These scientists must consider the business effects of their work.
While theoretical biologists usually works in "dry" labs, formulating mathematical models and running computer simulations, some experimental biologists conduct laboratory experiments involving animals, plants, microorganisms or biomolecules. However, a small part of experimental biological research also occurs outside the laboratory and may involve natural observation rather than experimentation. For example, a botanist may investigate the plant species present in a particular environment, while an ecologist might study how a forest area recovers after a fire.
Swift advances in knowledge of genetics and organic molecules spurred growth in the field of biotechnology, transforming the industries in which biological scientists work. Biological scientists can now manipulate the genetic material of animals and plants, attempting to make organisms (including humans) more productive or resistant to disease. Basic and applied research on biotechnological processes, such as recombining DNA, has led to the production of important substances, including human insulin and growth hormone. Many other substances not previously available in large quantities are now produced by biotechnological means. Some of these substances are useful in treating diseases.
Those working on various genome (chromosomes with their associated genes) projects isolate genes and determine their function. This work continues to lead to the discovery of genes associated with specific diseases and inherited health risks, such as sickle cell anemia. Advances in biotechnology have created research opportunities in almost all areas of biology, with commercial applications in areas such as medicine, agriculture, and environmental remediation.
Most biological scientists specialize in the study of a certain type of organism or in a specific activity, although recent advances have blurred some traditional classifications.
Biological scientists are not usually exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Those who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances in the laboratory must follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination. Many biological scientists, such as botanists, ecologists, and zoologists, conduct field studies that involve strenuous physical activity and primitive living conditions. Biological scientists in the field may work in warm or cold climates, in all kinds of weather.
Marine biologists encounter a variety of working conditions. Some work in laboratories; others work on research ships, and those who work underwater must practice safe diving while working around sharp coral reefs and hazardous marine life. Although some marine biologists obtain their specimens from the sea, many still spend a good deal of their time in laboratories and offices, conducting tests, running experiments, recording results, and compiling data.
Many biological scientists depend on grant money to fund their research. They may be under pressure to meet deadlines and to conform to rigid grant-writing specifications when preparing proposals to seek new or extended funding.
Biological scientists typically work regular hours. While the 40-hour workweek is common, longer hours are not uncommon. Researchers may be required to work odd hours in laboratories or other locations (especially while in the field), depending on the nature of their research.
The highest honor awarded to biologists is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded since 1901, by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Another significant award is the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences; established in 1980.
Albert Karl Ludwig Gotthilf Günther FRS, also Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Günther (3 October 1830 – 1 February 1914), was a German-born British zoologist, ichthyologist, and herpetologist. Günther is ranked the second-most productive reptile taxonomist (after George Albert Boulenger) with more than 340 reptile species described.Cell biology
Cell biology (also called cytology, from the Greek κύτος, kytos, "vessel") is a branch of biology that studies the structure and function of the cell, which is the basic unit of life. Cell biology is concerned with the physiological properties, metabolic processes, signaling pathways, life cycle, chemical composition and interactions of the cell with their environment. This is done both on a microscopic and molecular level as it encompasses prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells. Knowing the components of cells and how cells work is fundamental to all biological sciences; it is also essential for research in bio-medical fields such as cancer, and other diseases. Research in cell biology is closely related to genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology and cytochemistry .Computational biology
Computational biology involves the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, ecological, behavioral, and social systems. The field is broadly defined and includes foundations in biology, applied mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, computer science and evolution.Computational biology is different from biological computing, which is a subfield of computer science and computer engineering using bioengineering and biology to build computers, but is similar to bioinformatics, which is an interdisciplinary science using computers to store and process biological data.Developmental biology
Developmental biology is the study of the process by which animals and plants grow and develop. Developmental biology also encompasses the biology of regeneration, asexual reproduction, metamorphosis, and the growth and differentiation of stem cells in the adult organism.
In the late 20th century, the discipline largely transformed into evolutionary developmental biology.Evolutionary biology
Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology that studies the evolutionary processes that produced the diversity of life on Earth, starting from a single common ancestor. These processes include natural selection, common descent, and speciation.
The discipline emerged through what Julian Huxley called the modern synthesis (of the 1930s) of understanding from several previously unrelated fields of biological research, including genetics, ecology, systematics, and paleontology.
Current research has widened to cover the genetic architecture of adaptation, molecular evolution, and the different forces that contribute to evolution including sexual selection, genetic drift and biogeography. The newer field of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") investigates how embryonic development is controlled, thus creating a wider synthesis that integrates developmental biology with the fields covered by the earlier evolutionary synthesis.Fisheries science
Fisheries science is the academic discipline of managing and understanding fisheries. It is a multidisciplinary science, which draws on the disciplines of limnology, oceanography, freshwater biology, marine biology, conservation, ecology, population dynamics, economics and management to attempt to provide an integrated picture of fisheries. In some cases new disciplines have emerged, as in the case of bioeconomics and fisheries law.
Fisheries science is typically taught in a university setting, and can be the focus of an undergraduate, master's or Ph.D. program. Some universities offer fully integrated programs in fisheries science.James Marr (biologist)
James William Slessor Marr (9 December 1902 – 30 April 1965) was a Scottish marine biologist and polar explorer, renowned for his role as the leader of Operation Tabarin.MacArthur Fellows Program
The MacArthur Fellows Program, MacArthur Fellowship, commonly but unofficially known as a "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to between 20 and 30 individuals, working in any field, who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" and are citizens or residents of the United States.According to the Foundation's website, "the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential". The current prize is $625,000 paid over five years in quarterly installments. This figure was increased from $500,000 in 2013 with the release of a review of the MacArthur Fellows Program. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows, ranging in age from 18 to 82. The award has been called "one of the most significant awards that is truly 'no strings attached'".The program allows no applications. Anonymous and confidential nominations are invited by the Foundation and reviewed by an anonymous and confidential selection committee of about a dozen people. The committee reviews all nominees and recommends recipients to the president and board of directors. Most new Fellows first learn of their nomination and award upon receiving a congratulatory phone call. MacArthur Fellow Jim Collins described this experience in an editorial column of The New York Times.Cecilia Conrad is the managing director leading the MacArthur Fellows Program.Marine biology
Marine biology is the scientific study of marine life, organisms in the sea. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy.
A large proportion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. The exact size of this large proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world covering approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. The habitats studied in marine biology include everything from the tiny layers of surface water in which organisms and abiotic items may be trapped in surface tension between the ocean and atmosphere, to the depths of the oceanic trenches, sometimes 10,000 meters or more beneath the surface of the ocean. Specific habitats include coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, the surrounds of seamounts and thermal vents, tidepools, muddy, sandy and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone, where solid objects are rare and the surface of the water is the only visible boundary. The organisms studied range from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to huge cetaceans (whales) 25–32 meters (82–105 feet) in length. Marine ecology is the study of how marine organisms interact with each other and the environment.
Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.Many species are economically important to humans, including both finfish and shellfish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in fundamental ways. The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day. These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored.Mathematical and theoretical biology
Mathematical and theoretical biology is a branch of biology which employs theoretical analysis, mathematical models and abstractions of the living organisms to investigate the principles that govern the structure, development and behavior of the systems, as opposed to experimental biology which deals with the conduction of experiments to prove and validate the scientific theories. The field is sometimes called mathematical biology or biomathematics to stress the mathematical side, or theoretical biology to stress the biological side. Theoretical biology focuses more on the development of theoretical principles for biology while mathematical biology focuses on the use of mathematical tools to study biological systems, even though the two terms are sometimes interchanged.Mathematical biology aims at the mathematical representation and modeling of biological processes, using techniques and tools of applied mathematics. It has both theoretical and practical applications in biological, biomedical and biotechnology research. Describing systems in a quantitative manner means their behavior can be better simulated, and hence properties can be predicted that might not be evident to the experimenter. This requires precise mathematical models.
Mathematical biology employs many components of mathematics, and has contributed to the development of new techniques.Molecular biology
Molecular biology is a branch of biology that concerns the molecular basis of biological activity between biomolecules in the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between DNA, RNA, proteins and their biosynthesis, as well as the regulation of these interactions. Writing in Nature in 1961, William Astbury described molecular biology as:
...not so much a technique as an approach, an approach from the viewpoint of the so-called basic sciences with the leading idea of searching below the large-scale manifestations of classical biology for the corresponding molecular plan. It is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and [...] is predominantly three-dimensional and structural – which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function.Norman Davidson (biologist)
Norman Ralph Davidson (April 5, 1916 – February 14, 2002) was an American molecular biologist notable for advancing genome research, member of the National Academy of Sciences, received a National Medal of Science from U.S. President Bill Clinton, was a professor at Caltech. The New York Times called Davidson "major figure in advancing genome research ... whose groundbreaking work in molecular biology led to the earliest understanding of the overall structure of genomes".
The Los Angeles Times called him "a groundbreaking Caltech chemical biologist".
President Bill Clinton cited the scientist for "breakthroughs in chemistry and biology which have led to the earliest understanding of the overall structure of genomes".Popular science
Popular science (also called pop-science or popsci) is an interpretation of science intended for a general audience. While science journalism focuses on recent scientific developments, popular science is more broad-ranging. It may be written by professional science journalists or by scientists themselves. It is presented in many forms, including books, film and television documentaries, magazine articles, and web pages.Richard Henderson (biologist)
Richard Henderson, CH, FRS, FMedSci, HonFRSC (born 19 July 1945) is a Scottish molecular biologist and biophysicist and pioneer in the field of electron microscopy of biological molecules. Henderson shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank.Scientist
A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest.In classical antiquity, there was no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, philosophers engaged in the philosophical study of nature called natural philosophy, a precursor of natural science. It was not until the 19th century that the term scientist came into regular use after it was coined by the theologian, philosopher, and historian of science William Whewell in 1833. The term 'scientist' was first coined by him for Mary Somerville, partly because the term "man of science", more custom at that time, was clearly inappropriate here.In modern times, many scientists have advanced degrees in an area of science and pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit environments.Structural biology
Structural biology is a branch of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macromolecules (especially proteins, made up of amino acids, and RNA or DNA, made up of nucleotides), how they acquire the structures they have, and how alterations in their structures affect their function. This subject is of great interest to biologists because macromolecules carry out most of the functions of cells, and it is only by coiling into specific three-dimensional shapes that they are able to perform these functions. This architecture, the "tertiary structure" of molecules, depends in a complicated way on each molecule's basic composition, or "primary structure."
Biomolecules are too small to see in detail even with the most advanced light microscopes. The methods that structural biologists use to determine their structures generally involve measurements on vast numbers of identical molecules at the same time. These methods include:
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of proteins (NMR)
Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR)
Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)
Multiangle light scattering
Small angle scattering
Ultrafast laser spectroscopy
Dual-polarization interferometry and circular dichroismMost often researchers use them to study the "native states" of macromolecules. But variations on these methods are also used to watch nascent or denatured molecules assume or reassume their native states. See protein folding.
A third approach that structural biologists take to understanding structure is bioinformatics to look for patterns among the diverse sequences that give rise to particular shapes. Researchers often can deduce aspects of the structure of integral membrane proteins based on the membrane topology predicted by hydrophobicity analysis. See protein structure prediction.
In the past few years it has become possible for highly accurate physical molecular models to complement the in silico study of biological structures. Examples of these models can be found in the Protein Data Bank.The Marine Biologist
"The Marine Biologist" is the 78th episode of the American sitcom Seinfeld. It is the 14th episode of the fifth season. It was originally broadcast on NBC on February 10, 1994. Jerry Seinfeld considers the episode to be one of his favorites.Theodore Gill
Theodore Nicholas Gill (March 21, 1837 – September 25, 1914) was an American ichthyologist, mammalogist, malacologist and librarian.Wilhelm Peters
Wilhelm Karl Hartwich (or Hartwig) Peters (22 April 1815 in Koldenbüttel – 20 April 1883) was a German naturalist and explorer.
He was assistant to the anatomist Johannes Peter Müller and later became curator of the Berlin Zoological Museum. Encouraged by Müller and the explorer Alexander von Humboldt, Peters travelled to Mozambique via Angola in September 1842, exploring the coastal region and the Zambesi River. He returned to Berlin with an enormous collection of natural history specimens, which he then described in Naturwissenschaftliche Reise nach Mossambique... in den Jahren 1842 bis 1848 ausgeführt (1852–82). The work was comprehensive in its coverage, dealing with mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, river fish, insects and botany. He replaced Martin Lichtenstein as curator of the museum in 1858, and in the same year he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In a few years time, he greatly increased the Berlin Museum's herpetological collection to a size comparable to those of Paris and London. Herpetology was Peters' main interest, and he described 122 new genera and 649 species from around the world.