A program that focuses on the scientific study of the genetics of viruses, infectious agents, organelles, nuclear genomes, eubacteria, archaebacteria, and eukaryotic organisms. Includes instruction in molecular genetics and evolution, parasitic and symbiotic interaction at the genetic level, epigenetic phenomena, microbial interactions, and genomics.

Careers in microbial and eukaryotic genetics focus on the genetic structures and processes of microorganisms and complex cells.

Eukaryotic organisms, such as animals, plants, or fungi, are made up of cells with distinct components called organelles contained within a membrane. The most important element of a eukaryotic cell is one the average microbe lacks: a nucleus, which houses chromosomes and genetic information. Microbes, such as bacteria or yeast, are often single-celled organisms which have their own way of storing and dealing with genetic code. They do not reproduce the same way as eukaryotic organisms, instead splitting themselves in two or borrowing genetic material from other cells using a conduit such as a virus. Microbial geneticists are experts in these processes and at extracting their genetic information.

Microbial and eukaryotic geneticists are distinct categories, but there is some crossover between them, particularly when it comes to eukaryotic single-celled organisms such as protozoa, which tend to behave more like bacteria despite their more complex structure. Most work in microbial genetics occurs in research labs, where scientists attempt to understand the connections between how genetic information is stored and the ways it manifests in an organism. Scientists believe that advances in microbial genetics could be the key to defeating superbugs, and there are many fascinating developments on the horizon.

Work in microbial and eukaryotic genetics may include...

  • Designing and conducting experiments, trials, and therapies
  • Isolating, identifying, and manipulating genetic material in microorganisms
  • Recording, interpreting, and organizing data
  • Developing dynamic delivery mechanisms
  • Using specialized lab equipment and techniques to view microbe activity

The majority of microbial and eukaryotic geneticists work in medical or pharmaceutical research, either with government agencies, privately held companies or biotechnology labs. Some of these labs are affiliated with hospitals or universities, and some scientists will do clinical work, lecture, or teach in addition to supervising research. Others work as medical or legal consultants, helping to diagnose microbial conditions or establish regulatory policies. There are also a number of jobs in industry and commercial science which call for expertise in the field.

Most microbial and eukaryotic geneticists possess undergraduate degrees in microbiology or genetics and have completed supporting coursework in molecular and cell biology, as well as immunology. A reasonable number of roles in the field are available to graduates with Bachelor's degrees, but it's common to pursue further study. Master's and PhD programs in genetics provide valuable research opportunities to graduate students and open doors for further career advancement.

The world is filled with innumerable microorganisms, and studying them can lead to an exciting, fulfilling career in genetics.

For more information, please follow the links below:

  • The Genetics Society of America is a scholarly society that seeks to deepen our understanding of the living world by advancing our understanding of genetics.
  • The Microbiology Society is a membership charity for scientists interested in microbes, their effects, and their practical uses.
  • Microbiology Research is the Microbiology Society’s community publication platform featuring new microbial research.