Cell biologists are scientists who study cells, which are generally considered to be the building blocks of life because all living things are composed of one or more cells. A cell biologist works in the field of cell biology, which is also known as cytology. Cell biology studies all aspects of cells, from their interactions with each other and their environments to their cellular and atomic composition. A cell biologist will generally work to conduct experiments to better understand the precise nature of cells. The cell was discovered in the mid to late 1600s by Robert Hooke and the field of cell biology has developed since that point.
Cell biologists are generally very concerned with investigating both the processes and structures that occur and exist within cells. There are almost limitless combinations of structures and processes that any given cell can contain; they vary based on the purpose of the cell. A cell biologist tends to be interested in the relationship between structures and functions. Cell biologists also tend to seek similarities between different kinds of cells or between cells belonging to different species. A cell biologist is also typically very interested in proteins; there are many different kinds of proteins within cells, and each has a purpose within the cell.
Many other fields of biology are closely linked with cellular biology; a cell biologist may find his work relating to genetics, chemistry, or other fields. Cell division, for example, is the process by which cells split to produce more cells. An important part of this process is the division of strands of DNA; this is closely related to genetics. Physics and chemistry can also be very important, especially as they relate to the molecular composition of proteins. A cell biologist, then, usually needs to be knowledgeable in a variety of different fields.
There are many techniques that a cell biologist may employ when seeking greater knowledge about a given aspect of a cell or group of cells. One of the most important techniques is growing a controlled culture of cells and ensuring that no unintended contaminations enter the culture and harm the results of an experiment. Another important technique is known as transfection; it involves introducing a new gene to a cell and observing the results. There are several techniques used to determine the genetic composition of a given cell as well. An experimental cell biologist must be knowledgeable in these and in many other techniques to perform effective investigations into the nature of cells.
Cell biologists often are employed in research labs, working in government or academic settings. They may also conduct individual research. For some jobs, candidates need a bachelor's or master's degree in biology, cellular biology or a related science. To conduct independent research, a Ph.D. is typically required. Aspiring biologists can research various employers and work environments to determine exactly what kind of education will be required.