Anyone with an interest in science and the desire to explore the mysteries of life can become a microbiologist. You can, too.
Here's your chance to see what some microbiologists have to say about their work, why they do it and how they came to be scientists. Reading their profiles, you can get a sense of what it's like to be a microbiologist and maybe pick up some tips on how you can pursue a science career.
What kind of scientist are you?
Specifically, I'm a bacteriologist. My job is to look at various types of bacteria that cause stomach and intestinal infections and wound infections.
Please briefly describe your main research interests and activities.
I'm interested in studying what mechanisms or factors are produced by bacteria that aid those bacteria in causing disease. We could cure people or prevent them from getting sick if we could understand the mechanisms for causing disease.
Cathy Squires got her first experience with microbes growing up on her family’s farm in Sacramento, Calif. She started her college education thinking she’d one day be a medical lab technician. Since then, Dr. Squires has earned a Ph.D. and built a career as a research scientist studying the means by which bacteria churn out copies of their DNA and manage their reproduction. She’s now a professor of microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass. This is her story of how she got into a career in microbiology.
Karen Nelson is a Jamaican-born microbiologist who is working to spell out the entire genetic code of different microbes at The Institute for Genomic Research, or TIGR, (pronounced like "tiger") in Rockville, Maryland. She led the research team that came up with the whole genetic sequence for a bacterium called Thermotoga maritima (therm-uh-toe-guh mare-ih-team-uh), which lives in very hot water.
Dr. Nelson is one of the microbiologists featured in Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth. Dr. Nelson was also featured in an article in a magazine produced by Black Entertainment Television.
Raúl Cano is a professor of microbiology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. In 1995, he and colleagues in his lab stunned the world when they announced they’d revived 30-million-year-old bacteria from spores taken from the gut of an ancient bee entombed in amber. There were skeptics who wondered whether the bacteria were really just modern bugs that contaminated the tools used to get at the bee gut tissue. But in October 2000, another research group used many of the techniques developed by Cano’s lab to revive 250-million-year-old bacteria from spores trapped in salt crystals. With this additional evidence, it now seems that the "impossible" is true.