Microbiology is the study of unicellular or microscopic multicellular organisms. It studies the importance of the tiny biomes beyond our natural sense of sight. Postgraduate study explores the myriad facets of microbiology, such as plant pathology, food microbiology or immunology. It’s a sound compliment to prior scientific study, allowing students to specialise in this highly fascinating and useful field.
The first observations that could have been considered under the domain of microbiology occurred in the 17th century. Scientist Robert Hooke was the first to discover strands of fungi in his organic specimens using a rudimentary microscope. Later observations by other European scientists and even just laymen with microscopes revealed to the world that there was an incredible world of living things all around us that we couldn’t normally see.
The field is no longer a mere curiosity, however. Modern professionals can utilise their unique understanding to create medicines, cure disease, heal the environment, prevent food from spoiling and more.
Microbiology, like any science, is best harnessed by those with a natural, ravenous curiosity. It demands a passion for discovery combined with an equally powerful capacity for reason. If you’re the sort of person who could see themselves in a career making important discoveries regarding the very nature of nature, microbiology could be for you.
Master’s degrees are an excellent way of developing exceptional subject knowledge. They take two years of full time study to complete, or up to four years part time. The University of Tasmania offers these to students from a cognate discipline, although the relevance of this discipline can change the length of the degree. Students with merely a bachelor of science in a vaguely related field can expect to take the full two years or part time equivalent, as they’re required to take introductory units. Those with a directly relevant bachelor’s degree, like in microbiology, can expect to take one and a half years.
The course itself offers a great deal of choice; some examples of units include:
The course is then capped off with a master’s project, which is completed under the guidance of a supervisors on an approved topic of the student’s choice. This has the students describe a hypothetical experiment in detail, one that could be executed in real life.
The following are just a few examples of the many employment opportunities available to microbiology graduates.
Microbiologists work across fields to achieve a variety of sector-specific outcomes. An agricultural microbiologist may wish to use their expertise in preserving yield, for instance. A pharmaceutical microbiologist will work in developing and optimising medication.
Demand for microbiologists is therefore varied and makes for a diverse career path. Graduates can find employment with cross-disciplinary companies like SEI Industries in properly handling fuel, Aquatec Services in water treatment or Express Microbiology in testing food or environmental samples for research purposes.
Microbiology graduates have an incredibly exciting opportunity to take part in the burgeoning industry that is nanotechnology. Joining the Australian Nanotechnology Network, PicaMS or Nanovations are great ways of getting into the field, or at the very least, learning more about what’s being done to advance it.
Working as a researcher for companies like the CSIRO is a useful and admirable application of skills. Graduates are able to put their minds to some of the greatest coming innovations of our time and leave their mark on the national and global scientific communities.