So you want to study biology … Duh! Why not? Biology is the study of life. It is a very broad and diverse field. It is a natural science. In fact, I consider it as the science of the 21st century. Why?
It’s because biology is a field that requires a good understanding of all the other sciences. If you have a good high school level foundation in biology, chemistry and mathematics, I encourage you to go for biology as your college major or career.
Biology focuses on the study of living organisms. What is life? How do we protect it? How do organisms survive at the molecular, cellular and anatomical levels? What is the ecological interrelationship one organism has with another? What evolutionary patterns are associated with organisms? These questions are important to living creatures like ourselves and studying biology is about understanding the answers.
Biology can be divided into a great many sub-disciplines such as: genetics, physiology, microbiology, botany, zoology, neurobiology, immunology, ethology, marine biology, ecology, biochemistry, forestry, fisheries, evolutionary biology, pathology, forensics and paleontology – to mention just a few.
Why study biology? I asked a number of top professors of biology to satisfy your curiosity. Here are their seven insightful reasons to study biology:
1. “Why not a biology major? How can you grow and thrive in the biological sciences?” Professor David Zeigler asks you. Dr. Zeigler offers two standard suggestions for choosing a career path: 1) Do something you love (or have a deep interest in); 2) Do something useful that will benefit society and/or the world. “If you have the curiosity and interest, you will likely do well in biology,” Dr. Zeigler assures you. There are also a great number of professions that can be entered with a degree in biology. Dr. Zeigler states that the great majority of biologists are satisfied with their career choice and could not envision themselves doing anything else in terms of a career. “Biology is not all fun and games. It requires work and study, but the rewards of real understanding are worth the work,” Dr. Zeigler offers his advice.
2. If you are curious about the living world outside of the protective confines of your house or place of work, and if you see that some part of the natural world is in danger of being destroyed by human activity, and if you want to be in a position to effect change in the way people live and use the environment, here is Professor Les Walting’s advice: Become a broadly trained biologist! Why? Dr. Walting’s career has had a series of interesting turns but he confidently says from his experience, “obtaining a degree in biology was my ticket to the world.” If you are interested in biology, please try to retain the curiosity you had when you were a kid – it can also be your ticket to the world!
3. According to Dr. Rey Antonio Sia, the career options and opportunities available in the field of biology are currently vast and increase every year as new advances in the science are made. While biology as a major allows you to follow the more traditional career paths such as teaching and research at the academic or industry level, it also allows you to take advantage of new interdisciplinary careers such as in the areas of bioinformatics and biomedical engineering.
4. As Professor Jacob Harney puts it, one of the most difficult lessons in biology – that everyone eventually experiences – is the end of life. As Dr. Harney explains, life is all around us; plants, animals and humans continue to interact in a world that is changing due to those same interactions. Dr. Harney appreciates that in biology, “there is no greater wonder, no bigger question and no deeper thought than that which focuses on the beauty, mystery and miracle that is life.” Wouldn’t you want to study biology and invest in the understanding of life?
5. Do you have good math and chemistry skills? Are you interested in any aspect of the science of living organisms? Perhaps you should consider biology. If you have a goal of going on to professional schools, such as medical training or going on to get graduate degrees, please consider biology as your major. “Time is your most important resource. You need to decide ‘who you are’ and what your field will be,” suggests Professor Laura Leff. If you want to go to a graduate school, Dr. Leff wants you to remember that your success will be measured by collecting data and writing papers rather than communication with non-researchers. “The biggest mistake I think people make when they reach out to prospective advisors is sending out a ‘form letter,” Dr. Leff reveals. Then what’s the solution? “Asking a question about a publication they wrote you are more likely to get a positive response.”
6. How much can you earn as a biology major? “Financial remuneration comes with success, but I would be lying if I said you’d be a millionaire,” suggests Vincent Cassone-UKY. However, there are greater reasons to study biology. Were it not for the “green revolution,” which was agricultural research and development led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug, billions of people across the planet would have starved already, and the future of these billions depends more on biotechnology than ever as the climate begins to change, notes Dr. Cassone. Dr. Cassone further notes that since the world’s population is aging, the necessity to understand the brain and the processes underlying aging will be of critical importance in the future, and as our climate changes, biological research will help us cope with its impact on humans and other life forms.
7. The world needs biologists like never before to solve many of the challenges it faces today. According to Professor Mark Vicari, as the human population continues to grow, and living standards continue to improve, pressure on the natural world to feed, clothe and provide energy for us will test scientists, especially the biologists. As he explains, the problem of how to take millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every day – without causing harmful side effects in the process – awaits those who feel inclined to “save the world.” Are you ready to save the world? “You are beginning your career during biology’s ‘golden age.’” Dr. Vicari congratulates you.
So, how’re you feeling now? Did any of the reasons resonate with you? Is biology for you? It’s absolutely your call. Before you waste your parents’ hard-earned money in added semesters and tuition that you regret later, you need to listen to these experts. If you are going to spend another 30-40 years of your life in biology, you really need to do your homework. I hope the seven reasons from the top minds to study biology helped you make an informed decision about choosing biology as your major/career.
Dr. Kishor Vaidya is the editor of a peer-reviewed book “Biology for the Curious: Why Study Biology,” published by The Curious Academic Publishing. Dr. Vaidya has granted the non-exclusive rights to any entity to publish this article. Dr. Vaidya can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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