Biologist at Work

Parasitologist - (Biologist by training)

Just like us, the monarch butterfly sometimes gets sick thanks to a nasty parasite. But Biologist Jaap de Roode noticed something interesting about the butterflies he was studying — infected female butterflies would choose to lay their eggs on a specific kind of plant that helped their offspring avoid getting sick. How do they know to choose this plant? Think of it as "the other butterfly effect" — which could teach us to find new medicines for the treatment of human disease

Ecologist - (Biologist by training)

Deborah Gordon studies ant colonies in the Arizona desert to understand their complex social system. She asks: How do these chitinous creatures get down to business -- and even multitask when they need to -- with no language, memory or visible leadership? Her answers could lead to a better understanding of all complex systems, from the brain to the Web. Thanks, ants.

Bio-medical Animator - (Biologist by training)

We have no ways to directly observe molecules and what they do -- but Drew Berry wants to change that. He demos his scientifically accurate (and entertaining!) animations that help researchers see unseeable processes within our own cells


If you have an inquisitive mind with an interest in using live organisms to help solve society's problems, then a career as a biotechnologist could be for you .

Biotechnologists use biological organisms to develop or make products designed to improve health, food and the world around us.

They study the genetic, chemical and physical attributes of cells, tissues and organisms and identify practical uses for this knowledge to aid medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural, or environmental advancement to essentially improve the quality of human life.

The work involves manipulating living organisms or their components to design or enhance vaccines, medicines, energy efficiency or food productivity.

Biotechnologists use many different scientific disciplines to improve processes for a range of different industries including pharmaceuticals, health care, biofuels, agriculture, conservation, animal husbandry and food production.

Types of biotechnology include:

  • For Human and Environmental Health - detecting and controlling pollution and contamination in the environment, industrial waste, and agricultural chemicals, creating renewable energy and designing biodegradable materials to reduce humanity's ecological footprint. Using live organisms or biomolecular processes to develop and improve treatments, identify inherited diseases, cure certain disorders, and even lead to organ regeneration
  • industrial - using cloning and enzyme production to preserve and enhance the taste in food and drink, and developing enzymes to remove stains from clothing at lower washing temperatures
  • For food - agricultural biotechnology - improving animal feed and genetically modifying crops to increase pest resistance and productivity. Marine and aquatic biotechnology - increasing the yields of farmed fish and designing disease-resistant strains of oysters and vaccines against certain viruses that can infect fish
  • For Energy - biofuels - using organic compounds to reduce the cost of bio-refining reagents and put biofuels on equal footing with fossil fuels, and creating chemicals from renewable biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Modellor - A Translator from Biology to Mathematics

Irina Kareva translates biology into mathematics and vice versa. She writes mathematical models that describe the dynamics of cancer, with the goal of developing new drugs that target tumors. "The power and beauty of mathematical modeling lies in the fact that it makes you formalize, in a very rigorous way, what we think we know," Kareva says. "It can help guide us to where we should keep looking, and where there may be a dead end." It all comes down to asking the right question and translating it to the right equation, and back. Dr. Irina Kareva studies cancer as an evolving ecosystem, bringing in insights from various disciplines -- from evolutionary biology to paleontology to ergodic theory -- to understand how we can manage, if not cure, cancer like a chronic disease.

Ichthyologist (Zoologist) - Evolutionary Biologist

Did humans evolve from monkeys or from fish? In this enlightening talk, ichthyologist Prosanta Chakrabarty dispels some hardwired myths about evolution, encouraging us to remember that we're a small part of a complex, four-billion-year process -- and not the end of the line. "We're not the goal of evolution," Chakrabarty says. "Think of us all as young leaves on this ancient and gigantic tree of life -- connected by invisible branches not just to each other, but to our extinct relatives and our evolutionary ancestors."