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What is the most challenging thing about being a microbiologist?

Im a 9th grader and ive always been fascinated with biology and my dream job was too be a microbiologist. science biology

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Anne’s Answer

There are lots of challenges as a microbiologist. It's a big field of study, so it's difficult to describe all those challenges in a couple of paragraphs.

But, it's great that you're interested. Microbes are amazing organisms and have so many roles in our lives that it's impossible to list them all.

One big challenge is identifying microorganisms. For instance, bacteria, like animals, have specific habitats, nutrient requirements, appearances, etc. Depending on your job, you may be required to identify a wide range of bacteria or be concerned with a limited number of species. I test drinking water and we focus on "coliform" bacteria. If you were researching digestion and the human gut, you would be concerned with, potentially, 100s of different species. Some bacteria cause disease, but some are essential to health so it's important to know what organisms are in what samples you might encounter. The other thing about microorganisms is that they ger RE-indentified all the time. It used to be that you would grow bacterial colonies on some form of media and then perform certain tests to determine what species were present. Now with PCR and other molecular methods, we are learning more about the unique characteristics of bacteria and how they are related (or unrelated) to other species. This may also cause them to be renamed even if they've had the same name for decades.

The "bible" for microbiology is this book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergey%27s_Manual_of_Systematic_Bacteriology

You might be able to get a copy in your local library, or if you live near a university, they should have one. Sometimes college libraries allow non-students to visit, even if you can't check out books. You might even find a copy of a microbiology textbook at a used bookstore. This would be a good introduction to the science (Bergey's is VERY technical!).


Here's a website that has a lot of educational resources (some look like fun) to give you more insight into the science of microbiology:

https://msi.harvard.edu/micro-educational-resource-database

Good luck in school with your exploration of a fascinating area of science!





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Erin’s Answer

Hi Jaiden
As an industrial microbiologist, the most challenging thing for me is all of the paperwork! I do a lot of lab work running assays to find microbes or microbial parts inside of pharmaceutical products. Each test I do requires paperwork, and each set of testing and paperwork must be completed perfectly. Since I'm not a perfectionist by nature, it's often difficult for me to catch all of the small errors I've made before I turn it in for review. Then I get it back and find I've made some small mistake I need to correct. While there are a variety of ways to make up for these small mistakes, it does add a lot of time to my week.
All of the sciences require lots of paperwork and meticulous documentation. If you're considering a lab career, I would encourage you to spend time documenting whatever you can to get in the habit of it. Start journaling, keeping track of the statistics of your favorite sports team, or just count the number of red cars you pass on the way to school, and make a graph.
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Tejaswini’s Answer

Hi Jaiden,
Microbiology is a comparatively vast field and is often embedded in various other fields( especially in research). The field itself encompasses many sub areas(e.g. medical, environmental,industrial, agricultural, etc) and each area has its own challenges. I believe that there are many challenges as a microbiologist but there are also many opportunities and solutions available to overcome them, and would hence suggest that you don't focus too much on the challenges so that they do not become a hindrance towards your dream job :).
In my personal experience, each microbiologist has had his/ her own challenges- personal challenges, challenges in publications/ patenting, challenges in job search, challenges in field expertise and so on, and this is why you need to start building a network and get an idea on new findings. Those greatly help in figuring out your next step and your potential challenges.
Also, American Society for Microbiology(ASM) is a great website to start from!
I hope that this was helpful. Good luck!

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Chesie’s Answer

Microbiology is great.
In my opinion the most challenging thing is either smelling odors you can't stand or the sight of things that look nasty to the eyes.

The good news is you eventually get used to it when your passion for identifying microbes surpasses the smell and sight of lab samples / specimens.

Keep it up
Goodluck

You will love it
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