A mycologist is a scientist who studies fungi. The kingdom of fungi is quite large and, as a result, the nature of the work a mycologist performs is highly variable. Mycologists can be found working everywhere from breweries to pharmaceutical companies. Working mycologists typically have advanced degrees in mycology and some have completed postgraduate work.
Some mycologists are interested in fungal genetics. They study the DNA of molds, mushrooms, and other members of the fungi kingdom to learn more about them. A genetic mycologist may use this information to assist people with taxonomy, the classification of organisms. Genetics can also be valuable to understanding how some fungi produce toxins, when and why some fungi evolved, and how fungi have adapted to their environments. Geneticists work primarily in lab environments, using samples of fungi to study with the assistance of gene sequencing equipment.
Other mycologists are interested in how fungi cause disease. Fungi are widely distributed disease causing organisms which can infect plants, animals, and people. A mycologist who is interested in this particular branch of the field may study how fungi infect people, what kinds of toxins they produce and how they work, and how to prevent or treat fungal infections. Fungal infections range from infections of the nail, which can cause cosmetic damage, to devastating plant infestations which can ruin crops. There is a great deal of room for research in this field.
A mycologist can also apply his skills to making fungi useful for humans and learning how fungi can be harnessed for people. Fungi can be used in the production of some medications, and many mycologists work in the pharmaceutical industry, cultivating and studying fungi to develop new medications and refine existing ones. Some of the most widely studied and used fungi in the world are yeasts, and mycologists who focus on yeast may work with beer or bread, two food products made with yeast. They may develop new recipes, as well as new strains of yeasts which can be used by everyone from home bakers to commercial breweries.
Fungi are also used for other human purposes, like making dyes, enriching soil for farmers, and remediating environmental pollution. Mycologists study the myriad ways in which fungi can be applied and develop new methods for working with fungi to improve the consistency, quality, and safety of projects conducted with fungi. This type of research can involve field work, experiments in controlled environments, and study in the lab.