A program that focuses on the scientific study of physiological processes operating within and among cells, and intracellular communication and behavior, in the context of larger systems and whole organisms. Includes instruction in cell and molecular biology, molecular physiology, cell cycle control, signal transduction, protein structure, membrane biochemistry and structure, ion channel physics, cell respiration and digestion, secretory functions, cell adhesion and communication, information encoding and decoding, and the relation of cell physiology to tissue, organ, and organismic functioning.

Careers in cell physiology focus on the relationship between cells and physical processes within living organisms.

Cells are microscopic units of organic matter that make up the bulk of a physical being. Each cell is a distinct container with a number of parts inside, each with its own form and purpose. Cell physiologists study the functions and processes within these cells, as well as their interactions with other structures such as tissue, organs, and systems.

Understanding what cells do has many components, including cell cycles and the ways information is communicated between different pieces of a cell, or between a single cell and a separate system. These processes can help us to make sense of disease behavior, and cell physiologists are finding ways to translate them into applicable treatments for degenerative conditions. Some physiologists focus their work on plant cells, which have a number of unique traits that can help us understand the processes of the natural world.

Work in cell physiology may include...

  • Observing the activity of cell components and their biological processes
  • Collecting and analyzing complex biological data
  • Inspecting cell structures and functions for abnormalities
  • Harnessing, replicating, or manipulating the function of a cell component
  • Developing treatments and trials for experimental or clinical purposes

Cell physiology is primarily a research field, and nearly all of its practitioners can be found in research labs run by hospitals and universities. They may also teach or work in clinical settings, educating students or administering treatments rather than investigating new questions. There is some interest in cell physiology in various corners of biotechnology and industry, and employment opportunities will occasionally appear there.

Most cell physiologists start with a Bachelor's degree, usually in cell biology or physiological science. Coursework in chemistry, physics, and math is useful for students on this path, and graduates can sometimes find entry-level jobs as lab assistants or similar roles. Those who want to delve further into research have the option of pursuing a graduate degree; Master's programs are a good option for students who want to prepare for more involved research, and PhD programs are the go-to option for research devotees who want to study a particular element over a long period of time. It's also not uncommon to find cell physiologists in medical school, and some elect to obtain multiple degrees.

The world of cells is much bigger than it appears; if you want to discover some of its secrets, consider a career in cell physiology.

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