Thursday, January 14, 2010

Genomics: A New Field with Amazing Potential

When it comes to careers, there is no field that changes so much, teaches so many, and helps us to define the world and the creatures living in it as do jobs in science. From the tiniest microorganism to the largest mammal, from outer space to the depths of the ocean, these jobs allow a person to explore, discover, and inform. Inasmuch as what we know about the universe changes, so do careers in the field of science. One such career is the study of the genome (where a genome is a fully sequenced set of DNA in an organism), known as genomics.

Whereas in the past, specific genes may have been studied to establish the cause of genetic mutations and inherited traits, today primary focus is being placed on the genome. Genomics studies require the scientist to systematically analyze the hereditary material of various living organisms, thereby gaining new insight into the function, evolution, and organization of the whole of genetic material. Comparing complete sequences of genes can help scientists acquire new information on the survival abilities of seemingly similar creatures in vastly different environments.

Because genomics jobs are relatively new to the field of biology, but the information gleaned so far in this area of study has already been so critical in solving certain mysteries of living organisms, genomics scientists are in an excellent position for career stability and growth. Any individual interested in unearthing the secrets of genetic defects, traits, or tendencies, with an aptitude for the sciences, and the ability to focus for long periods of time on statistical analysis, would do well to consider a career in genomics.

As with all careers, a mere interest in, and aptitude for, a certain subject matter is not always enough for a candidate to establish themselves successfully in a field. A genomics scientist must be able to work equally well independently and as a member of a team. This is because much of the work will have to do with data identification and analysis, but then applying the data to conditions being researched is often a group effort. Because of the aspects of teamwork required, genomics scientists must also be willing to consider and accept a variety of ideas and points of view from their colleagues.

Additionally, because genomics scientists of today are establishing an entirely new sub-category of biology, they must be prepared to design their own experiments, and then to identify and accept the limitations of those very experiments. The candidate must be able to appreciate the fact that new challenges will lead to new data, and that looking at an old problem in an entirely new way might be the only way to find a solution. Finally, excellent oral and written communication skills are mandatory for a genomics scientist as there is no purpose in conducting research and collecting data if the information gleaned from that research cannot be communicated to the rest of the scientific community and to the public at large.

Once a person has determined that they are a good candidate for a career in genomics, they must obtain the appropriate education. First a Bachelor's degree should be obtained, with major undergraduate coursework in molecular biology or biochemistry. The individual should also consider honing their advanced physics and mathematics skills. A program offering a multitude of research opportunities would be absolutely ideal for the candidate who will be seeking genomics jobs in the future.

After obtaining a Bachelor's degree, prospective genomics scientists should enroll in a graduate program for biochemistry, chemistry or molecular biology, being careful to choose the one that offers courses such as medical genomics, bioinformatics, molecular diagnostics, and functional genomics. An education of this type at this level is the only way for a candidate to prepare to pursue future genomics careers.

As genomics continues to grow and evolve, new areas of specialization will undoubtedly emerge. At this time, there are already many sub-categories of genomics science, including pharmaceutics, functional genomics, medical diagnostics, and agricultural genomics. Genomics scientists might find themselves working in a variety of industries, such as forestry, pharmacology, biotechnology, medicine, and agriculture. Still other genomics professionals might work at universities, government agencies, or major corporations.

A strong aptitude for science combined with excellent written and verbal communication skills might mean a person is a good candidate for genomics scientist careers. If one is not only willing, but excited, to obtain the right education and right research experience, the field of genomics is a promising one, offering the stability and security that many other careers can only dream of.

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