Most people would tell you their interest for science goes about as far as searching their symptoms on the internet when they’re feeling a sick, more often finding illnesses ten times more grave than what is nothing more than a common cold. While the study of your own body is very important, studying science, and more specifically, biology, can help you understand the world around you.
In fact, biology is a branch of science that is part of our daily lives. Everything from investigating far off galaxies to understanding microscopic processes, biologists seek not only to uncover how things work, but how these discoveries can be applied to help us and our complex ecosystem. If you’re interested in learning more about biology, we’ll start by defining what the discipline is exactly.
What is Biology?
The simplest way to start defining biology is to take a peek at the common dictionary definition of the subject. According to Merriam Webster, biology is “a branch of knowledge that deals with living organisms and vital processes.” While this definition is a bit broad, considering there are about 7.7 billion people in the world, it does serve as a great starting point into dealing with the historical development of the field.
At the origin of studying general biology is it's simple definition, which is described as the study of all living things. This includes everything from humans, plants, and the microorganisms living all around us.
There are three main recognized branches of biology, which include botany, zoology, and microbiology. While it seems to counter the vision of modern biology and its concerns with everything genetic and cellular - general biology can trace its origins back to ancient civilizations.
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All three branches of biology involve the scientist interacting with many different disciplines, including developmental biology and biochemistry.
Understanding some of the basic components of molecular and organismal biology involve knowing about concepts such as cell division and heritable characteristics.
The evolution of marine biology from simply trying to classify different species of sea creatures, to understanding the chemistry and DNA of the organisms that make up the vast network of aquatic animals is vital.
While many of the disciplines we will carry a complex history that spans the centuries, marine biology is a relatively new branch of biology. It is characterized by the study of the animals and plants that live in an aquatic environment.
Advancements in computer technology have enabled biologists to both track the evolutionary pathways of sea animals, as well as understand their physiology at a much more detailed scale.
If you're interested in understanding what type of work marine biologists do, it might come as a surprise that these scientists can be found in all sectors of the workforce. While oceanography is the most obvious job for a marine biologists, they can also work as educators, policy advisors, as well as curators.
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While understanding the extensive, centuries-long history of biology can be fun, it can also lead to confusion: just how many branches of biology exist today? Here, we break down yet another specialization within the discipline: molecular biology.
While molecular biology is a relatively new discipline, in comparison to fields like botany and zoology, its history is just as rich and complex. Molecular biology first gained traction with Gregor Mendel's experiments dealing with genetic inheritance.
Understanding not only the process by which genes are expressed but also the specific molecules that enable this expression, became the central focus of molecular biologists throughout the 20th century.
The advancement of biotechnology both provided the mechanism through which further experimentation on genetic material could be carried out, as well as became part of a new wave of biology dealing with bioinformatics.
Today, this discipline strives to understand genomics, which is the sequencing of DNA. Meaning, it deals with understanding which gene information is located on what genetic material.
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Careers in this field, which can range from laboratory technicians to general practitioners, are diverse and vast. The first step to attaining those jobs, however, is to make sure you understand the core concepts involved in the discipline.
While there are many basic concepts involved in molecular biology, you should place your focus on understanding gene expression, nucleic acids, and macromolecules in general.
Studying Botany in Today's World
Botany is considered to be one of the three main branches in biology, and it covers a wide range of topics. The simplified definition of biology understands it as the study of both plants and how these plants interact with their environment.
While botany as a discipline tends to be viewed as only involving work like maintaining botanical gardens, it is in fact one of the oldest disciplines in the world. So old, actually, its roots can be traced back to 300 BCE.
The reason can be found in its main goal: understanding plants. Again, human dependence on plants led to the explosion in both classifying and categorizing all the different species of plants, but also understanding what causes changes in their environment.
Careers in this field cover a vast array of different topics of biology. Work in education involves either teaching or providing educational material in the form of museums, guides or promotional material. On the other hand, work in governments always involves either research, advising, or conservation efforts.
Botanists are also involved in the fields of wildlife and medicine. Understanding the biological processes of plants and their characteristics is an integral part of understanding both disease and maintaining national parks.
If you're unsure about how to get started with an undergraduate degree in botany, or are struggling with the subjects in botany covered in your biology class, check out this guide to understanding everything about the field.
Understanding and Studying Zoology
Zoology makes up the second branch of biology and involves the study of animals and their environments. While this branch also includes interdisciplinary work, its essence can be boiled down to understanding both the structure and function of the makeup of animals and the ecosystems they inhabit.
Studying these types of organismal processes involves a large amount of understanding of cell division, morphology, taxonomy, life science and neurobiology.
While the first real attempts at zoology where made through intensive classification systems of hunting and domestication, it later became important to understand the evolutionary pathways of animals. This was explored in the 19th-century work by Charles Darwin, whose explanations and investigations became part of evolutionary theory.
If you're currently studying topics in zoology, there are many different terms you should have a handle on. However, some basic concepts that you should understand are energy transfers, vertebrates, and habitats.
Some careers in zoology, different to what has already been mentioned, include taking on a role in chemistry, mammalogy, and conservation biology.
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Learning and Careers in Ecology
Ecology can be seen as the marriage of many different topics within zoology, botany, and other biological sciences. It is defined as the study of all living things and their interactions with their environments.
Ecology is also a relatively new discipline, as it was heavily ameliorated and developed by 20th century, technological innovation. Today, ecologists are focused on understanding the biological systems at work around us.
Ecology is often understood to be linked with environmental science. However, it should not only be limited to this specialization, as it depends on a range of various topics like population dynamics, conservation and computational biology.
Fortunately, there are many places to study ecology both in the UK and around the world. If you are interested in studying ecology, you should start by understanding both the career prospects as well as the programs involved in the discipline.
Knowing About Microbiology
Pursuing a bachelors, masters and postdoctoral degree in microbiology can be extremely beneficial - however, it is important to have a thorough understanding of what the discipline really is.
This discipline involves everything from microscopy, phylogenetic studies, neurobiology and computational science. The history of the origin as it can be recognized today really didn't develop until the 20th and 21st centuries with the rise of advanced technologies.
While careers in this field also include medicine, biochemistry and biophysics, they also involve subjects like environmental science, biodiversity and even life science. If you'd like to learn more about this field, start by understanding some of its basic concepts.
It is important to do some research on the kind of bioscience degrees that are available in the biology department of the schools you are interested in. www.ucas.com is a great starting point when researching for minors and majors available for undergraduates and graduates. If you’d like to check out a specific university’s department of biology or department of life science, you can either email the director of each or go to www.opendays.com to see the dates in which the university is open to the general public and for students.